An Inuit artist whose "impact was revolutionary" but who had trouble coping with "serious stardom" was found dead in a river this week. Annie Pootoogook's life changed dramatically in 2006, the Ottawa Citizen reports. She went from drawing in a tiny town in Canada's deep north to having her work displayed in Toronto, New York, Germany, and Switzerland. She won a $50,000 award for her art, which could sell for up $2,600 per piece. But it was "too much, too fast," says the art dealer who discovered her. According to the Globe and Mail, Pootoogook had largely stopped creating art by 2009. She was living on and off the street in Ottawa and struggling with drugs and alcohol. She could occasionally be found selling drawings for cigarette money.
Authorities confirmed Friday that a body pulled from a river on Monday was Pootoogook. She was 47. Authorities haven't released a cause of death but aren't treating it as a homicide. "She has left a tremendous legacy to the Canadian cultural fabric,” the Toronto Star quotes a statement from the Sobey Art Foundation. Her work will be remembered for portraying contemporary Inuit life—from women beading to spousal abuse—in a "poignant, often difficult way." "She was the kindest soul you could ever meet," a gallery curator tells CBC. "If you talk to anyone who has met Annie Pootoogook, they'll never forget her." (Her art was her photos. She didn't take a single one.)