Karoo Ashevak, “Drummer”, Date Unknown, Fossilized Whale Bone
Born in 1940, Karoo Ashevak was an Inuit sculptor who lived a nomadic hunting life in the Kitikmeot Region of the central Arctic befor moving into Spence Bay, Northwest Territories in 1960. His career as an artist started in 1968 when he participated in a goverment funded carving program. Ashevak created about 250 sculptures in his lifetime, primarily in the medium of fossilized whale bone. He expored the themes of shamanism and Inuit spirituality with hsi depictions of human figures, shamans, spirits, and Arctic wildlife.
Karoo Ashevak became a recognizable artist after his solo exhibition at the American Indian Art Center in New York in 1973. Unlike other Inuit primitivist carvings, Ashevak’s work abandoned cultural references and adopted a modern expressionistic style, which visually appealed to a broader audience than collectors of Inuit art.
On October 9th of 1974, Ashevak and his wife Doris both died in a fire that destroyed their home. Despite his short life, he established a well-known reputation in his community and the nearby area of Uqsuqtuc. His sculptures inspired a whole generation of Kitikmeot carvers and have been included in multiple exhibitions. They continue to be widely collected as well as traded on the art market and during auctions