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Born June 5, 1970, Toonoo is the son of the late carver Josephee Sharky and Ragee Killiktee, who also carves once in a while. Toonoo started carving at the age of 10, learning his skills and developing his style by watching his grandfather, Quppapik Ragee, and his uncle Shorty Killiktee.
“My younger brothers, Napachie and Alasua are also carving”, says Toonoo. He lives with Mary Saila, another artist, and they have an adopted child.
“I was influenced by my grandfather Quppapik Ragee, and also by (my uncle) Shorty Killiktee. The first carving I did was at the age of ten. I think it was a bird or a seal.”
He likes to carve in serpentine and marble. “I like the colours and also the textures of both stones. 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. My favourite subjects are bird figures with human faces.”
Toonoo’s work is carefully executed and delicately balanced, with an individual style quite unlike any other. Characteristic of his work are fanciful and dramatic treatments of wildlife, particularly transformation works that are both powerful and humorous. He prefers to carve large works, and transformation birds and seal predominate as subject matter.
Toonoo first exhibited work at the age of seventeen, and since then has exhibited extensively in Canada, the United States, France, Switzerland, and Germany. He is widely regarded as one of the most exciting young carvers to emerge from the Arctic.