Chief Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw)
(November 23, 1955 – March 27, 2017, Kwakwaka’wakw)
Hereditary Chief Beau Dick (Walas Gwa’yam), acclaimed as one of the northwest coast’s most versatile and talented carvers, was born in Kingcome Inlet, BC, a Kwakiutl village north of Vancouver Island, BC. He was a contemporary artist, activist and hereditary chief from the Namgis First Nation. At a young age, he moved to Albert Bay, British Columbia, where he began carving and became heavily influenced by the traditional woodcarving of both his grandfather and father.
Beau Dick draws on a deep knowledge of ceremonial Kwakwaka’wakw culture, giving us face-time with the mythological with a pantheon of masks. At the same time, dick mediates the space between aesthetics, social utility, and the art for sale condition. For more than three decades, he actively perpetuated the ceremonial traditions of his people. Beau also worked alongside master carvers Robert Davidson, Tony Hunt, and the late Bill Reid.
Dick’s work has been exhibited most recently at white columns (nyc) in 2019 and documenta 14, athens/kassel (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. 2010 saw four of beau’s major works brought to sydney, australia, to be displayed in one of the world’s largest and most prestigious exhibitions, the sydney biennale.