Beau Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m (Big Whale), Frogs, n.d., silkscreen, ed. 244/275. Gift of Mark Fettes, 2022
Beau Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m is best known for his carving, but he did produce a limited number of serigraph prints in the late 1970s and through to the 1990s. Many of his prints are symmetrical, or depict mirror images of animals like the proposed silkscreen print, entitled Frogs. His works are bold in design and colour, with highly stylized forms which relate to the shapes created in traditional Kwakwaka'wakw carving. The frog maintains significant symbolism in Northwest Coast art and culture, recognized for the qualities of a healer. Bill Reid Gallery notes that the Kwakwaka'wakw Frog “inhabits the human, as well as the spirit, world. It is revered for its adaptability and its ability to communicate between the two realms.”
Beau Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m (Big Whale), (1955–2017) was a Dzawada’enux/ Kwakwaka'wakw Northwest Coast artist and Chief who lived and worked in Dzawada’enux First Nations territory in Alert Bay, BC, Canada. He was a contemporary artist, activist, and hereditary Chief from the Namgis First Nation. Dick was an award-winning artist with an extensive national and international exhibition history. Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m studied carving with his family, including his father Benjamin Dick and his grandfather, James Dick, as well as notable artists Henry Hunt and Doug Cranmer. After studying in Vancouver, Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m participated in advocacy for Indigenous Peoples Treaty Rights, and supporting his local community members, including his sharing of artistic and cultural traditions. Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m had a significant impact, in British Columbia and beyond, and is considered a mentor for many regional Indigenous artists, as well as arts writers and curators who have cited his influence. He maintained that his artworks were rooted in traditional Kwakwaka’wakw culture, but also included incorporation of a great deal of contemporary culture such as anime, Japanese Noh masks, Halloween masks, and many other contemporary references.
Beau Dick/Walas G̱wa̱ʼya̱m has been exhibited widely, including at White Columns in New York, 2019; documenta14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany in 2017; Sakahan: International Indigenous Art, National Gallery of Canada, 2013; 17th Biennial of Sydney, Australia in 2010. His works are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Civilization in Hull, Quebec, and the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia.