Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw)

Bio

November 23, 1955 – March 27, 2017

Chief Beau Dick (Walas Gwa’yam), acclaimed as one of the Northwest Coast’s most versatile and talented carvers, was born in Alert Bay, BC where he lived and worked. Reaching out beyond the confines of his own Kwakwaka’wakw culture, Dick explored new formats and techniques in his work, including painting and drawing. For more than three decades, he has actively perpetuated the ceremonial traditions of his people, the Kwakwaka’wakw. He began carving at a very early age, studying under his father Benjamin Dick, his grandfather James Dick, and later under renowned artists Henry Hunt and Doug Cranmer. Beau has also worked alongside such artists as Robert Davidson, Tony Hunt and the late Bill Reid. 

A carver who took much of his inspiration and technique from traditional Kwakwaka’wakw art, Beau’s work has been particularly noted for its embrace of contemporary influences, often incorporating European and Asian styles into his creations. His masks in particular have been lauded for their rough yet realistic presentation, representing a piece that is both austere yet incredibly life-like. As the artist himself has put it:

Image from the documentary Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters.

Image from the documentary Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters

“My style is sometimes referred to as “Potlatch Style” as it comes from a tradition of ceremony which requires many masks to be made in a short period of time. It takes many years of practice and an understanding of balance in order to create a work that is appears finished in a natural and instinctive manner, without seeming overthought.” 

Due to the particularity of his work, Beau’s art has gained steady recognition and acclaim in both Canada and the international art scene over the years, with a carving commissioned for Vancouver’s Expo ’86 proving to be a large stepping-stone in his career. In 1998, Beau was one of only seven Canadian artists to attend the reopening of Canada House in London, England. The following decade saw many of his pieces featured in a variety of exhibitions that took his work to galleries and museums across Canada, the US and Europe. 2010 saw four of Beau’s major works brought to Sydney, Australia to be displayed in one of the largest and most prestigious exhibitions in the world, the Sydney Biennale. Dick’s work has been exhibited most recently at Documenta 14, Athens (2017). 

The story of Beau’s life and art is being developed into a feature-length documentary film entitled Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters, to be tentatively released in 2017. From 2013 to his passing in 2017, Dick was Artist-in-Residence at the UBC Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, with his studio in the Audain Art Centre. 

EXHIBITIONS

  • 2017
    – Learning From Athens, documenta 14, Athens GR and Kassel DE
    – NADA Art Fair, Skylight Clarkson North, New York NY
    – Supernaturalis: Chief Beau Dick, Gallery Weekend, San Francisco CA
  • 2016
    – Lalakenis/All Directions: A Journey of Truth and Unity,  Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, Vancouver, BC
    – Divergent Convergence, Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver BC
    – Art Toronto | Toronto International Art Fair, Fazakas Gallery Booth, Toronto ON
    – This is it with it as it is (group exhibition), Art History and Visual Art Gallery, Audain Art Centre, University of British Columbia
  • 2015
    – Drama, Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver BC
    – The Box of Treasures: Gifts from the Supernatural, The Bill Reid Gallery, Vancouver BC
  • 2014
    – Art Toronto | Toronto International Art Fair, Toronto ON
    – Inappropriate, Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver BC
  • 2013
    – Story, Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver BC
    – RezErect: Native Erotica, The Bill Reid Gallery, Vancouver BC
    – Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ON
    – Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver BC
    – The Voyage, or Three Years At Sea Part VI, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver BC
  • 2011
    – Sacred Stories, Timeless Tales: Mythic Traditions in World Art, The Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, FL
  • 2010
    – 17th International Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney AU
    – Monster: The Fear Inside, a group show of contemporary artists with the myths and legends of disparate cultures, Inuit, Kwakwaka’wakw, European, Chinese, West Vancouver Museum, West Vancouver BC
  • 2009
    – Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast,  McMichael Canadian Art Collection, opened in Kleinberg ON then traveled throughout Canada and Switzerland. Closed Fall 2010
    – In the Spirit of the Ancestors: Contemporary Northwest Coast Native Art, The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle
  • 2006
    – 75 Years of Collecting: First Nations: Myths and Realities, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver BC
  • 2004
    – Supernatural: Neil Campbell and Beau Dick, The Contemporary Art Gallery of Vancouver, Vancouver BC
  • 1998
    – Down From the Shimmering Sky, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver BC
    – Beau was one of seven artists invited to London, England to represent First Nations Canadians for the reopening of Canada House

PUBLICATIONS

  • 2015
    – “What About Power?: Inquiries Into Contemporary Sculpture”
    – “The Power Of The Potlatch”, British Columbia Magazine
  • 2010
    – “The Beauty Of Distance, Songs Of Survival In A Precarious Age”, 17th Biennale of Sydney Catalogue, edited by David Elliot, Sydney Australia: Sydney Biennale.
  • 2009
    – “Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast”, Ian Thom, Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre
  • 2004
    – “Supernatural: Neil Campbell And Beau Dick”, Roy Arden the Contemporary Art Gallery of Vancouver, Vancouver BC
  • 1984
    – “The Legacy: Tradition And Innovation In Northwest Coast Indian Art”, Vancouver/Toronto: Douglas & McIntyre. Macnair, Peter, Robert Joseph and Bruce Grenville.

AWARDS

  • 2012
    – Beau Dick and Ron Tran were the recipients of the 2012 VIVA Awards, presented by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts to recognize BC artists who demonstrate exceptional creative ability and commitment.

PERMANENT / CORPORATE COLLECTIONS

Museum of Civilization, Hull, QC
Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, BC
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Michael Audain collection, Vancouver, BC
U’mista Cultural Center, Alert Bay, BC
The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ
RBC Wealth Collection
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Salem, OR
Damien Hirst Collection