JESSIE OONARK, O.C., R.C.A. (1906-1985)
a Toronto private collection
As mentioned in the discussion of Lot 17, we sometimes have to speculate about Oonark’s portrayal of Christian iconography. This drawing almost surely depicts Mary Magdalene and Jesus, but since it seems to show him twice we need to sort out the precise meaning. (It should be noted that the illustration of multiple episodes of a story is a common feature of Baker Lake narrative drawings.) That Jesus is depicted at the time of his burial (which Mary Magdalene witnessed) seems clear. The second depiction is more puzzling; it may represent the moment of Jesus’s resurrection (unseen by Mary), or perhaps it illustrates the slightly later Noli Mi Tangere (Touch Me Not) scene. It’s a charming and very moving work.
References: for related Christian imagery by Oonark see Darlene Coward Wight, Creation and Transformation (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 2012) cat. 76 (Giver of Life); see also Jean Blodgett and Marie Bouchard, Jessie Oonark: A Retrospective (Winnipeg Art Gallery, 1986) p. 45 (The Last Supper).
First Arts: Inuit & First Nations Art Auction www.firstarts.ca