Elsie Klengenberg

Elsie Klengenberg is a renowned artist from Ulukhaktok (Holman), NT. In 1962, Klengenberg moved with her family from their home on Read Island to Ulukhaktok. Her father, Victor Ekootak (1916-1965), also helped to form Ulukhaktok’s print facilities and artist cooperative [1]. Klengenberg is known for her creation of prints and drawings.

Klengenberg started to draw in 1980, and also collaborated with fellow artists Mary Okheena and Mabel Nigiyok in Ulukhaktok’s print studios. Together, they designed a stencilling technique that employed mylar, thin polyester film, overlays [2]. The new technique enabled printmakers to produce prints with a variety of tones and colour layering, which led to figures having a three-dimensional appearance on the image’s surface. For example, Klengenberg's stencil print, Going Down River (1989) illustrates the impact of this technique through various values and the figures' three-dimensional appearances. This artwork features two male figures on either side of the composition. The left figure is wearing a bright, turquoise parka while his counterpart on the right is wearing a brown parka. The pair are attempting to catch light grey fish swimming in the blue water beneath the thick ice. Their dogs eat a fish head and tail on a raised land mound in the distance. Klengenberg’s artworks primarily depict northern environments, hunting, animals and figures. She was quoted in Inuit Art Quarterly’s Arts Alive: Special Issue (2004) noting: “I like to tell the old stories so the children will remember” [3].

Klengenberg's artwork has additionally been included in numerous exhibitions and artistic projects. Her work has been in the annual collection Holman Prints between 1970 and 1995, and also in the annual Holman Prints (printmaker) Collection from 1982 to 1993. In 1998, she created 20 stencil prints that depict the story of Uvajuq. This legend is well-known and significant to many Inuit families and communities in the western Arctic, and highlights how three hills developed within the predominantly flat landscape in Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay), NU [4]. Uvajuq, Amaaqtuq and their child were a family of giants who lived on Kiilliniq (Victoria Island), but they experienced starvation and died [5]. According to the legend, the families' bodies developed into hills within the surrounding flat natural environment [6]. Uvajuq, the father, is considered to have formed the largest hill [7]. Klengenberg has also been featured in the exhibitions Elsie Klengenberg: The Legend of Uvajuq and Holman: Forty Years of Graphic Art at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 1999 and 2001 respectively.  

Klengenberg’s prints are in a number of collections including the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Manitoba, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife, NT, and the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, QC. She was also included in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program “Adrienne Clarkson Presents” with artists Oopik Pitseolak and Oviloo Tunnillie (1949-2014) in 1997, and has taught various workshops in stencilling. 

Accomplishments
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1995: Moved to Inuvik, NT, to complete Fine Arts courses at Aurora College

1997: Participated in two-week pan-Arctic Women's Workshop at Ottawa School of Art

1997: One of three Inuit women artists, with Oopik Pitseolak and Oviloo Tunnillie (1949-2014), to be featured in "Adrienne Clarkson Presents" (CBC program)

1998-2000: Attended Nunavut Arctic College courses in jewellery-making at the Iqaluktuuttiaq (Cambridge Bay), NU campus



Citations/Footnotes

1. Sonia Gunderson, “Elsie Klengenberg: Keeping the Stories Alive,” Inuit Art Quarterly – Arts Alive: Special Issue 19, no. 3/4 (Fall/Winter 2004): 53.
2. Ibid 54.
3. Ibid.
4. "Uvayuq: The Origin of Death," Pitquhirnikkut Ilihautiniq: Kitikmeot Heritage Society, n.d., accessed June 20, 2019, https://www.kitikmeotheritage.ca/uvajuq.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.