Annie Mikpigak’s stonecut prints epitomize the Puvirnituq style in which the image is enclosed within the rough stone matrix, but they also have a strong archaic quality. Mikpigak typically carved very little material around and between figures on her stone blocks, making her lively compositions look almost like rubbings taken from rock engravings. Her prints are indeed products of the sculptor’s art; it is not known if Mikpigak ever made any drawings.
Mikpigak’s prints are deceptively charming as they often present quite unsettling imagery. This fascinating print illustrates an unspecified story that might relate to the Tuniit, a legendary race of giants – possibly the prehistoric Dorset people – in Inuit lore. The image, printed from two stones, shows hapless Inuit attacked by a fearsome hairy giant and a polar bear that possibly carries the mark of an evil turngaq spirit. Interestingly, the lower body of the giant seems superimposed on the skin of a polar bear, suggesting a linked meaning.
Annie Mikpigak was born near Puvirnituq and raised eleven children with her husband, Nutaraalu, who died in 1955. Stonecut printmaking was a male-dominated activity in Puvirnituq in the early 1960s, and so it was unusual for a widow in her sixties to even attempt it and to become one of the community’s most important and prolific graphic artists. Cutting all of her own stone blocks and even printing some of them in the early years of her practice, Mikpigak authored an astonishing seventy-seven prints between 1962 and 1973, more than almost any other Puvirnituq artist. Mikpigak is one of the most overlooked talents in Inuit art; she deserves to rank among the pantheon of strong female graphic artists that includes Kenojuak Ashevak, Pitseolak Ashoona, Jessie Oonark and Helen Kalvak.