Sam Toonoo

Faces, serpentine carving, 22 x 8 x 6 cm. 

Samonie (Sam) Toonoo (1960-2017) was a carver from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), NU. Toonoo is known for contrasting light and dark elements within his sculpture to visualize the connections between people and spirits as well as themes of death, religion, pop culture and technology.  Toonoo’s sculpture also serves as commentary on colonial traumas working their way through Inuit culture. His work God’s System, Alcoholic and The Suicide (2005) confront the effects of Christianity and the residential school system, substance abuse and depression that can be found in Northern communities. At the same time he made works that resist and confound these colonial narratives. Break Dancers (2007), which was part of an exhibition hosted by the TD Gallery of Inuit Art depicts an unconventional subject for Inuit sculpture. Two figures appear side by side, one standing with his arms crossed, the other in a headspin. The figures’ defiant attitudes and showmanship are skillfully accentuated by subtle changes in the grain of the stone creating patterns in the figures’ clothing.
Toonoo’s talent is acknowledged within the artistic community. Though initially not widely exhibited his work continues to gain momentum among Southern audiences. The 2010 exhibition Scream: Ed Pien and Samonie Toonoo held at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery in Toronto was met with critical success. Toonoo has been profiled multiple times by the Inuit Art Quarterly.

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