One of Canada’s most celebrated Inuit sculptors, Toonoo Sharkey’s artistic career has earned him international acclaim. Born and raised in Cape Dorset, Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic, Sharkey comes from a long line of sculptors in his family. Influenced by his late grandfather Kopapik Ragee and also by elder Shorty Killiktee (two well-known sculptors), Sharkey began his career at the age of ten.
Sculpting primarily with materials such as serpentine, marble and fossilized whalebone that are native to southern Baffin Island, Sharkey is able to meet the challenges that these difficult mediums present. Characteristically, Sharkey’s sculptural forms are finely detailed and highly polished. His stone inlay work is masterfully done and the delicate wings of his bird-forms push the limits of the stone.
“I like the colours and also the textures of both [serpentine and marble]. When I’m starting on a piece of stone, I like to slowly work on the piece until the shape starts forming into a shape I can recognize. Sometimes I just go by the shape of the stone.”
Sharkey’s work embraces the enchanted Inuit spirit world of old. Combining elements of nature and spirituality, he brings each creation to life with a whimsical energy or mysterious character of its own. These “beings” often appear to be in motion and their imaginative abstracted forms give them a sophisticated and contemporary edge.
National Indian & Inuit Art Collection, Dept of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Hull, Quebec
Musee d’art Inuit Brousseau, Quebec City, Quebec
Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.
Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba