Hereditary chief Beau Dick was born in 1955 in Alert Bay, B.C., just off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island in the ancestral land of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. As an infant, Beau was taken by his family to Kingcome Village at the head of Kingcome Inlet on the mainland coast of British Columbia where he spent the first six years of his life. There, only his native language, Kwakwala, was spoken. Later Beau was brought to Vancouver to attend school and summers were spent with his family in Alert Bay.
Beau began carving at the age of fifteen after careful instruction from his grandfather, Jimmy Dick. Beau assisted both his grandfather and father, Ben Dick, in the carving and painting of the world’s tallest totem pole (173′) which is raised in Alert Bay. He was also taught and influenced by Henry Speck. Through the encouragement of Henry Speck Beau developed his skill as a Kwakwaka’wakw dancer and singer and joined the Kwak-Kwala Arts and Crafts Society. His uncle, Jimmy Dawson taught Beau much of the Kwa-gulth mythology and storytelling. Tony Hunt invited Beau Dick to come to Victoria to work alongside him and Chief Henry Hunt. This proved to be a turning point in his career. Since then, Beau has worked with a number of master carvers including Doug Cranmer, Bill Reid and Robert Davidson.
Due to the traditional importance of copper and its use as a mark of status, there is a Kwakwaka’wakw shaming ritual, the copper cutting ceremony, involving breaking copper plaques. The act represents a challenge; if the target cannot break a plaque of equal or greater value, he or she is shamed. The ceremony, which had not been performed since the 1950s, was revived by chief Beau Dick in 2013, amid the Idle No More movement. He performed a copper cutting ritual on the lawn of the British Columbia Legislature on February 10, 2013, to ritually shame the Stephen Harper government.
Beau Dick is versatile, using several media. His work is found in many important private and public collections worldwide. In 2010 four of his major works traveled to Sydney Australia to participate in one of the largest exhibitions in the world, the Sydney Biennale. He’s also the subject of an upcoming documentary film about his life and art, entitled “Beau Dick – Maker of Monsters.”
Permanent / Corporate Collections
Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec
Museum of Anthropology Vancouver, BC
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Michael Audain collection, Vancouver, BC