Ikayukta Tunnillie’s work always stands out to me. And I think it’s her birds. Even though they look a little like monsters—these ones have really long legs and curly tail feathers—they have bird eyes and they look they way I imagine birds to look. There is a hint of violence in those strips of meat the birds carry in their mouths. But it’s also the nicest part of the image, creating symmetry between the birds’ tails and the meat they’re eating. Maybe that was too graphic for the CEAC? I can only speculate.
I have been trying to develop my own set of images for future stonecut prints. If I could make something even close to the level of this lithograph, I’d be so happy. So to see that it was rejected, I don’t quite understand—this work seems to be of the same calibre as so many other prints I’ve seen. It would be interesting to know the specific reason it was held back, along with so many others. It’s especially strange because this print was pulled in a full edition of 50.
It makes me wonder, too, about the artists that were making these works. I wonder how this rejection impacted them, because artists respond to what is received well and what isn’t, and tend to produce work that is going to find a market. If your prints didn’t make the cut, what kind of impact would it have on your practice, on how you do things?
I’m trying to imagine myself in a situation where I make a work and no one ever gets to see it. It’s easier now, for me, to have confidence in what I’m doing and to know for myself when an idea is great. But even a few years ago I was much more hesitant about how my work would be received. So with artists like Ikayukta Tunnillie whose works were rejected, I hope it didn’t inhibit their ability to express themselves in more exploratory ways.
—Couzyn van Heuvelen
This article is part of our Feature series “What Gets Lost: The Canadian Eskimo Arts Council’s Rejected Prints“.