Beau Dick, also called 'Walas G̱wa̱’ya̱m, is widely acclaimed as one of the most advanced, versatile and talented carvers of the Pacific Northwest Coast.He is particularly renown for the animated and arresting quality of his masks.Beau was the 2012 recipient of the prestigious VIVA Award, granted by the Jack & Doris Shadbolt Foundation to recognise British Columbia artists displaying exceptional creative ability and commitment in their art practice.
Born in the southern Kwakwaka’wakw village of Kingcome Inlet (Gwa’yi), Beau began painting whilst at school in Vancouver, producing large naturalistic style canvasses depicting southern Kwakwaka’wakw mythological figures and ceremonial dancers. He went on to study Northwest Coast design and sculpture with DougCranmer and Henry Hunt, two of the foremost Kwakwaka’wakw artists of the 20th century.
Beau does not limit his work to the styles of his own Kwakwaka’wakw culture; rather, he explores various tribal styles through his mask-carving, modelled on illustrations of old specimens in museums. Beau has also continued painting, currently borrowing from European ideas and stylistic concerns, all the while continuing to tell the powerful stories of his own culture. His distinctive mode of art-making balances a powerful and theatrical Kwakwaka’wakw style of carving, with painting that draws on traditional form-line design and a finger-rubbed finish.
Beau has participated in many group and solo exhibitions, and is highly regarded for creating traditional ceremonial masks surpassed by few artists today. His Transformation Mask, made for the 1986 Vancouver Expo, is currently on display in the Canadian Museum of Civilization. In the same year he also completed a totem pole now situated in Stanley Park, Vancouver.His work can be found in the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver; the Heard Museum, Phoenix; the Burke Museum, Seattle, as well as the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Beau Dick has established himself as an accomplished carver, storyteller, educator and contemporary fine arts practitioner. He apprentices many of the next generation of young carvers, thus passing on the skills and knowledge he inherited from his father, Francis Dick.He still resides in Kingcome Village where he gains continual inspiration from the place of his ancestors. As of 2013, he is Artist in Residence at the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia.