MEET BEAU DICK: MAKER OF MONSTERS / 2017
Meet Beau Dick is a portrait of a Canadian art legend, a Maker of Monsters. He was an enigmatic carver from a small remote village on the Northwest Coast of British Columbia.
Beau Dick's remarkable masks have been celebrated across the global art scene as vibrant expressions of West Coast Indigenous culture and a sophisticated crossover into the contemporary art world. Dick had an unprecedented ability to tap into the collective memory of his people and breathe new life into age-old traditions.
Meet Beau Dick gives an intimate look into the life of one of Canada’s greatest artists. Beau Dick worked within an ancient tradition and rose to the ranks of international success within the white cube world of contemporary art while never forgetting his roots. This film strives to capture the essence of Beau Dick and his mysterious enigma as an artist who symbolized Canada’s history with the First Nations and the ethical dilemmas faced in reconciling with that colonialist history. Beau was able to use his celebrity to call attention to the injustices done to his people and the environment.
Even in his activism, Beau relied on his culture to inform him how to be political. He didn’t simply stage protests; he enacted ancient ceremonies, creating a public display infused with spirituality. He challenged the Canadian government, chief-to-chief, on his own terms and by using traditional Kwakwaka’wakw political protocol, with minor adjustments for the contemporary situation. He carried out the ceremonial act of breaking a Copper and shaming the Canadian government on two occasions. First, on the steps of the Parliament Building in Victoria, BC, and then one year later on the steps of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Copper Breaking Ceremony is a spiritual and political act that had not been performed in over 100 years.
In reaching into his past, the stories of the Kwakwaka’wakw nations are also brought to the forefront; their rich history, their dramatic mythology, and the deep scars left by colonialism. Weaving together the personal and cultural until both become inseparable, Meet Beau Dick presents an artist who succeeded in reconciling the two.
Meet Beau Dick strives to unearth the factors that made Beau who he was – his deep connection to identity, family, and community, his struggle with addiction – and like a carver chipping away at a block of wood, his story brings truth and understanding out of the woodwork. Meet Beau Dick illuminates a man whose art and life continue to transcend expectations and boundaries.
Sometimes better not to think, and just feel when you're being creative” Beau Dick
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: