Jutai Toonoo was a member of an influential group of graphic artists in Cape Dorset that emerged near the turn of the millennium. The group ushered in a focus on drawings as works of art in and of themselves, a medium that had originally been seen only as a preparatory process for printmaking. Toonoo’s work is unique in its dark and iconoclastic psychological approach. Toonoo spent most of his artistic career actively rebelling against the standard Cape Dorset aesthetic, which, until recently, had prioritized relatively peaceful depictions of Inuit life and nature.
Toonoo’s preoccupation with the depiction of the human face can be seen in his early work as a carver. Later in his career, Toonoo turned to self-portraiture, a subject matter that was previously rare in Inuit art. My Hand demonstrates the shift in Cape Dorset graphic art towards more overtly personal and autobiographical subject matters in the new millennium. Here, Toonoo emphasizes the dichotomy between creation and destruction. His depiction of his own hand as the giver of life through creation is reminiscent of the hand of God touching Adam’s in Michelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco. Meanwhile, the dark phantom-like face and skull-shaped ring give the work the chilling allure of a memento mori, reminding the viewer that death is never far away.