Annie was a very talented artist, and she will be most missed. This is a terrible loss, not only for all those who loved Annie, but for all those who love art as well. Annie has walked on at age 47, and hopefully, her death will be properly investigated now. Like too many women, Annie found herself in an abusive relationship, and tried to get out.
Annie Pootoogook – an artist well-known for her lively, in-the-moment, brave, often disturbing and ground-breaking artwork – was a major star in Canada and appreciated by the Inuit, First Nations and art communities, Canadian citizens and contemporary art lovers around the world.
On September 19, Pootoogook’s body was found in the Rideau River in Ottawa, off a park 2 kilometers from Parliament Hill. She was 47 years old. Although the police did not suspect foul play, the major crimes unit is currently investigating.
Though she was not as well-known in the United States including the mainstream American press and most art magazines or critical forums, Ms. Pootoogook won a major Canadian artist prize, was acclaimed by the post-modern art critics at Documenta 12 in Kassel, Germany, and had a show at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
Within 10 years she was living on the streets in Ottawa and selling her drawings for survival. She had made several criticized choices regarding her male partners, the latest and last was William (Bill) Watt, who since 2010 tried to manage her, her celebrity and money-making capabilities.
Pootoogook told friends she feared for her safety and attempted to leave her situation. When she had left Watt and was going to a Shepherds of Good Hope shelter for assistance, she was later found in the Rideau River. Police have questioned Watt several times and continue with what has now become a high-profile case.
When she made art or engaged people over her art, she was very good and could light up a room. Although deeply shy, if given the occasion she could talk about her art to a room full of people for hours.
As it sometimes happens, she had removed herself from her support networks and ending up in Ottawa’s Inuit homeless community. Art, community and family situations were replaced with drinking, life on the streets and a series of abusive relationships..
To the media she was a celebrity and a story was expected. To the art community, there were many questions, few answers and a lot of speculation. The Native community added Annie to the missing and murdered indigenous women – #MMIW – and wanted answers, she was remembered at a MMIW rally where Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke.
The full story is here. Goodbye, Annie, and thank you for all your wonderful gifts to the world.