Beau Dick

Devoured by Consumerism

March 16–May 4, 2019 East Gallery
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A frontal view of a large vinyl print of Devoured by Consumerism, a logo for the body of works in the exhibition. The black and white print depicts two human figures in the mouth of a larger being struggling to escape. One of the humans have a dollar sign and an X replacing their eyes and the other one has two spirals. The being has two eyes and sharp teeth.)al view of a large vinyl print of Devoured by Consumerism, a logo for the body of works in the exhibition. The black and white print depicts two human figures in the mouth of a larger being struggling to escape. One of the humans have a dollar sign and an X replacing their eyes and the other one has two spirals. The being has two eyes and sharp teeth.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Otter Woman on a wall in the foreground. Devoured by Consumerism is visible in the wall in the background. Otter woman is a red mask of a woman with medium length hair and her tongue slightly sticking out  She is a "shapeshifter, able to appear in any form, as any person or being. She uses this power to seduce the humans she encounters in an attempt to lure them into the spirit realm. Her rolled-back eyes and protruding tongue indicate her ability to communicate with that world of spirits.")

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Frontal view of three masks installed on a wall. From left to right: Atlakim II, Atlakim III, and Atlakim I. They are all wooden masks similar in size and have red lips,  green and black areas to accent facial structures and features, and hair made of cedar bark. The series of Atlakim masks made roughly by the Kwakwaka’wakw, and are worn in a dancing series of four years before they are burned.") 

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A gallery with two light gray walls and a white column on the right side of the room. There are three masks on the right wall and two masks on the left back wall. There is another mask on a pedestal against the back wall, to the right of the column. On the left side of the column in the foreground of the photograph is Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet, a wooden puppet slouched on a white folding chair.) 

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet in the foreground and two masks in the background, one on each wall. The puppet is slouched on a white folding chair an their body is painted in dark gray with white and green accents. The ribs are exposed, and their knees have skulls on them. The face is painted in red, green, gray, and white and the ear is painted red. "Winalagalis is the spirit of war. He is a tall, emaciated man with bat-like eyes who travels in an invisible canoe, perpetually stirring up trouble.")

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet sitting on a white folding chair facing a TV monitor with static in the foreground. Right behind the TV the back of Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag, is visible on top of a pedestal. Installed in the back wall are the masks titled Bookwus, Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer), and Rich Woman from left to right. In between Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer), and Rich Woman the piece Copper ingot and document is installed on a pedestal.) 

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Four masks installed around a corner. Towkwit Head is installed on a pedestal to the far right against the right wall. To its left is Bookwus (With Rattles) installed on a metal stand. Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer) and Bookwus are installed on the left wall.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Three sculptures installed before a wall of large shaded windows. Supernatural Raven, which is hung on the far left from the ceiling, is a wooden sculpture representing a caricature of a raven's head adorned with cedar bark and feathers. Beau's carving chair, an aged wicker chair from the artist's studio with a cardboard box and other ephemera is installed on the floor in the middle of the room. Moogums, which is installed on a metal stand to the right, is a wooden sculpture of four birds and two masks adorned with cedar bark and  "displays the four main cannibal bird henchmen of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’ combined into one mask.")

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A close up view of Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag on a pedestal in the foreground and Towkwit Head and Bookwus (With Rattles) are installed in the background. Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag is a sculpture of a green beaver mask accented with brown, black and white lines to emphasize facial features that is placed inside a shopping bag with a towel loosely wrapped around the mask. Both the towel and bag have horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, red, and green stripes alternating with white stripes.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A close up view of Towkwit Head, a wooden mask that is wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag. There is a hole ripped through the garbage bag revealing an eye and some hair. The eye is rolled up, only showing the lower half of the pupil. "Towkwit is usually a female shamanic being who cannot be killed. In ceremony, a shaman cuts off her head, sets her on fire, resurrects her, and then repeats the process again and again." The artist depicts Towkwit here as a young David from the parable of David and Goliath.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019

Beau Dick Ghost of Christmas Presents, 2016 Western red cedar, acrylic, graphite, feathers, nail, Canadian banknotes 13 x 8.5 x 6 in (A gray mask smiling with feathers and Canadian paper currency on top of its head. The eyes are painted a light green and the mouth pink and red. "Ghosts travel with Bak ̓was and attend to his needs. Since they have the power to resurrect the dead they are also associated with Tuxw’i")

Beau Dick

Ghost of Christmas Presents, 2016

Western red cedar, acrylic, graphite, feathers, nail, Canadian banknotes

13 × 8.5 × 6 in

Press Release

“We talk about the ‘the system’. It has no face; it has no conscience either. So these forces we are up against are almost on the supernatural level. My conscience tells me we have to fight back. And in some ways it is war on another level; nonviolent, but spiritual warfare. It has come to that.” – Beau Dick, 2017.

“Everything gets devoured, devoured, devoured.” –    Wayne Alfred, Kwakwaka’wakw carver and friend of Beau Dick.

White Columns is proud to present ‘Devoured by Consumerism’, the first New York solo exhibition by the Kwakwaka’wakw artist, activist and chief Beau Dick (1955-2017.) The exhibition was conceived by Dick shortly before his death in 2017, and has been organized in close collaboration with the artist’s estate and Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver.

‘Devoured by Consumerism’ includes a group of some fifteen carved and painted masks and sculptural works made by Dick between 1980 and 2016. The exhibition explores and amplifies the inherent tensions and contradictions between the Kwakwaka’wakw Winter Ceremonies and contemporary consumer culture. Writing about Dick’s intentions for ‘Devoured by Consumerism’ LaTiesha Fazakas suggests: “Through the sharing of works inspired by the Kwakwaka’wakw Winter Ceremonies, Beau Dick hoped to spark change in a world that he saw as devouring itself under the ravenous pressures of capitalism.”

In a text published in 2017 on the occasion of Dick’s widely celebrated participation in Documenta 14 Candice Hopkins wrote: “In Dick’s hands, masks are not simply masks, they are animate beings that have important roles outside the confines of contemporary art. He is continually short-circuiting their status as a commodity. In 2012, he removed the forty Atlakim (Forest) masks from the walls of his gallery and brought them back to his community in Alert Bay, BC, where they were danced for a final time and then ceremonially burned. There is rebirth within destruction, as now there is a responsibility to carve a new set of masks, which in turn keeps them alive.”

A host of compelling characters and figures inhabit ‘Devoured by Consumerism,’ including supernatural cannibal birds; the shape-shifter ‘Otter Woman’; ‘Qominaga’ (the ‘Rich Woman’); ‘Bookwus’ and ‘Tsonoqua’, the wild man and woman of the woods, and the ‘Ghost of Christmas Presents’, among others. Through these works, inspired and informed by his culture’s potlach traditions, and the narratives and traditions they represent, Beau Dick’s art offers us a profound understanding of balance, of community responsibility and personal transformation.

“When we talk about restoration and preservation of our culture, we look at art first and we wonder, What does it mean? We talk about identity and we look at the carvings and we wonder, What does it mean? We talk about territorial claims, and how is that pertinent to what these totems stand for. What does it all mean? This art form is ceremonial art. It comes from ancient times and ancient experiences of our ancestors. It’s given to us as a gift from the creator. It’s like a broken down vehicle that hasn’t been running very well lately because it hasn’t been taken care of. Our whole culture has been shattered. It’s up to the artists now to pick up the pieces and try and put them together, back where they belong. Yeah, it does become political. It becomes beyond political; it becomes very deep and emotional.” – Beau Dick speaking in the 2017 film ‘Maker of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life of Beau Dick.’

The exhibition is accompanied by a new, fully illustrated publication ‘Beau Dick: Devoured By Consumerism’ (Fazakas Gallery / Figure 1. Publishing, Vancouver.) Featuring texts by LaTiesha Fazakas and Laurie White, John Cussans, and Candice Hopkins, and contributions from Wayne Alfred and Cole Speck. Available from the gallery: $25.00 plus shipping.

Chief Beau Dick, aka Walas Gwa’yam (1955-2017), was a Kwakwaka’wakw (Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation) artist and activist. (Dick’s name in the Kwak’wala language means: “Big whale”.) Dick was born in the community of Alert Bay, B.C., and lived in Kingcome Inlet, Vancouver. He began carving at an early age studying under his father Benjamin Dick, his grandfather James Dick, and with renowned artists Henry Hunt and Doug Cranmer. Beau Dick also worked alongside master carvers Robert Davidson, Tony Hunt and Bill Reid.

A hereditary chief Dick was highly active in his community. “In February 2013, inspired by the activist movement Idle No More and spurred on by his daughters Linnea and Geraldine, they walked south from Quatsino to Victoria, British Columbia, where in the presence of some three thousand people they broke a copper named Nunmgala on the steps of the BC Legislative Assembly. In 2014, he gathered even more supporters and broke copper on the steps of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Dick, the maker of monsters, is exposing some too. The coppers broken on the steps of two houses of power are a call against colonialism and capitalism: “In breaking this copper we confront the tyranny and oppression of a government who has forsaken human rights and turned its back on nature in the interests of the almighty dollar, and we act in accordance with our laws.”” (Candice Hopkins)

Beau Dick created many important public works including a Transformation Mask for Expo 86, Vancouver; and the Ga’akstalas Totem Pole for Stanley Park, Vancouver (carved with Wayne Alfred and raised in 1991.) Beau Dick’s work has been shown extensively including exhibitions at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Vancouver (1976); Canada House, London, UK (1986); the 17th Sydney Biennale, Sydney, Australia (2010); and Documenta 14 Athens/Kassel, Greece/Germany (2017.) A retrospective of his work was held at the Audain Museum, Whistler, Canada in 2017. He was the recipient of the 2012 VIVA Award, and was the Artist-in-Residence at the University of Columbia’s Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory from 2013-2017.

White Columns would like to express our sincere gratitude to Beau Dick’s family, LaTiesha Fazakas and everyone at the Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver for their enthusiasm and support in bringing Beau Dick’s work to New York.

White Columns’ Director Matthew Higgs would like to personally thank and acknowledge the Vancouver-based artist Roy Arden for introducing him to Beau Dick’s work in 2004: on the occasion of the exhibition ‘Supernatural – Neil Campbell and Beau Dick’, curated by Arden for the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG), Vancouver in 2004.

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A frontal view of a large vinyl print of Devoured by Consumerism, a logo for the body of works in the exhibition. The black and white print depicts two human figures in the mouth of a larger being struggling to escape. One of the humans have a dollar sign and an X replacing their eyes and the other one has two spirals. The being has two eyes and sharp teeth.)al view of a large vinyl print of Devoured by Consumerism, a logo for the body of works in the exhibition. The black and white print depicts two human figures in the mouth of a larger being struggling to escape. One of the humans have a dollar sign and an X replacing their eyes and the other one has two spirals. The being has two eyes and sharp teeth.)
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Otter Woman on a wall in the foreground. Devoured by Consumerism is visible in the wall in the background. Otter woman is a red mask of a woman with medium length hair and her tongue slightly sticking out  She is a "shapeshifter, able to appear in any form, as any person or being. She uses this power to seduce the humans she encounters in an attempt to lure them into the spirit realm. Her rolled-back eyes and protruding tongue indicate her ability to communicate with that world of spirits.")
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Frontal view of three masks installed on a wall. From left to right: Atlakim II, Atlakim III, and Atlakim I. They are all wooden masks similar in size and have red lips,  green and black areas to accent facial structures and features, and hair made of cedar bark. The series of Atlakim masks made roughly by the Kwakwaka’wakw, and are worn in a dancing series of four years before they are burned.") 
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A gallery with two light gray walls and a white column on the right side of the room. There are three masks on the right wall and two masks on the left back wall. There is another mask on a pedestal against the back wall, to the right of the column. On the left side of the column in the foreground of the photograph is Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet, a wooden puppet slouched on a white folding chair.) 
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet in the foreground and two masks in the background, one on each wall. The puppet is slouched on a white folding chair an their body is painted in dark gray with white and green accents. The ribs are exposed, and their knees have skulls on them. The face is painted in red, green, gray, and white and the ear is painted red. "Winalagalis is the spirit of war. He is a tall, emaciated man with bat-like eyes who travels in an invisible canoe, perpetually stirring up trouble.")
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet sitting on a white folding chair facing a TV monitor with static in the foreground. Right behind the TV the back of Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag, is visible on top of a pedestal. Installed in the back wall are the masks titled Bookwus, Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer), and Rich Woman from left to right. In between Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer), and Rich Woman the piece Copper ingot and document is installed on a pedestal.) 
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Four masks installed around a corner. Towkwit Head is installed on a pedestal to the far right against the right wall. To its left is Bookwus (With Rattles) installed on a metal stand. Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer) and Bookwus are installed on the left wall.)
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Three sculptures installed before a wall of large shaded windows. Supernatural Raven, which is hung on the far left from the ceiling, is a wooden sculpture representing a caricature of a raven's head adorned with cedar bark and feathers. Beau's carving chair, an aged wicker chair from the artist's studio with a cardboard box and other ephemera is installed on the floor in the middle of the room. Moogums, which is installed on a metal stand to the right, is a wooden sculpture of four birds and two masks adorned with cedar bark and  "displays the four main cannibal bird henchmen of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’ combined into one mask.")
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A close up view of Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag on a pedestal in the foreground and Towkwit Head and Bookwus (With Rattles) are installed in the background. Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag is a sculpture of a green beaver mask accented with brown, black and white lines to emphasize facial features that is placed inside a shopping bag with a towel loosely wrapped around the mask. Both the towel and bag have horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, red, and green stripes alternating with white stripes.)
Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A close up view of Towkwit Head, a wooden mask that is wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag. There is a hole ripped through the garbage bag revealing an eye and some hair. The eye is rolled up, only showing the lower half of the pupil. "Towkwit is usually a female shamanic being who cannot be killed. In ceremony, a shaman cuts off her head, sets her on fire, resurrects her, and then repeats the process again and again." The artist depicts Towkwit here as a young David from the parable of David and Goliath.)
Beau Dick Ghost of Christmas Presents, 2016 Western red cedar, acrylic, graphite, feathers, nail, Canadian banknotes 13 x 8.5 x 6 in (A gray mask smiling with feathers and Canadian paper currency on top of its head. The eyes are painted a light green and the mouth pink and red. "Ghosts travel with Bak ̓was and attend to his needs. Since they have the power to resurrect the dead they are also associated with Tuxw’i")

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A frontal view of a large vinyl print of Devoured by Consumerism, a logo for the body of works in the exhibition. The black and white print depicts two human figures in the mouth of a larger being struggling to escape. One of the humans have a dollar sign and an × replacing their eyes and the other one has two spirals. The being has two eyes and sharp teeth.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Otter Woman on a wall in the foreground. Devoured by Consumerism is visible in the wall in the background. Otter woman is a red mask of a woman with medium length hair and her tongue slightly sticking out.She is a “shapeshifter, able to appear in any form, as any person or being. She uses this power to seduce the humans she encounters in an attempt to lure them into the spirit realm. Her rolled-back eyes and protruding tongue indicate her ability to communicate with that world of spirits.”)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Frontal view of three masks installed on a wall. From left to right: Atlakim II, Atlakim III, and Atlakim I. They are all wooden masks similar in size and have red lips,  green and black areas to accent facial structures and features, and hair made of cedar bark. The series of Atlakim masks made roughly by the Kwakwaka’wakw, and are worn in a dancing series of four years before they are burned.”)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A gallery with two light gray walls and a white column on the right side of the room. There are three masks on the right wall and two masks on the left back wall. There is another mask on a pedestal against the back wall, to the right of the column. On the left side of the column in the foreground of the photograph is Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet, a wooden puppet slouched on a white folding chair.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet in the foreground and two masks in the background, one on each wall. The puppet is slouched on a white folding chair an their body is painted in dark gray with white and green accents. The ribs are exposed, and their knees have skulls on them. The face is painted in red, green, gray, and white and the ear is painted red. “Winalagalis is the spirit of war. He is a tall, emaciated man with bat-like eyes who travels in an invisible canoe, perpetually stirring up trouble.”)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Installation view of Winalagalis (War Spirit) Puppet sitting on a white folding chair facing a TV monitor with static in the foreground. Right behind the TV the back of Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag, is visible on top of a pedestal. Installed in the back wall are the masks titled Bookwus, Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer), and Rich Woman from left to right. In between Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer), and Rich Woman the piece Copper ingot and document is installed on a pedestal.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Four masks installed around a corner. Towkwit Head is installed on a pedestal to the far right against the right wall. To its left is Bookwus (With Rattles) installed on a metal stand. Noohlmahl (Fool Dancer) and Bookwus are installed on the left wall.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (Three sculptures installed before a wall of large shaded windows. Supernatural Raven, which is hung on the far left from the ceiling, is a wooden sculpture representing a caricature of a raven’s head adorned with cedar bark and feathers. Beau’s carving chair, an aged wicker chair from the artist’s studio with a cardboard box and other ephemera is installed on the floor in the middle of the room. Moogums, which is installed on a metal stand to the right, is a wooden sculpture of four birds and two masks adorned with cedar bark and  “displays the four main cannibal bird henchmen of Baxwbakwalanuksiwe’ combined into one mask.”)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A close up view of Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag on a pedestal in the foreground and Towkwit Head and Bookwus (With Rattles) are installed in the background. Beaver in a Hudson Bay Bag is a sculpture of a green beaver mask accented with brown, black and white lines to emphasize facial features that is placed inside a shopping bag with a towel loosely wrapped around the mask. Both the towel and bag have horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, red, and green stripes alternating with white stripes.)

Beau Dick, installation view, 2019 (A close up view of Towkwit Head, a wooden mask that is wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag. There is a hole ripped through the garbage bag revealing an eye and some hair. The eye is rolled up, only showing the lower half of the pupil. “Towkwit is usually a female shamanic being who cannot be killed. In ceremony, a shaman cuts off her head, sets her on fire, resurrects her, and then repeats the process again and again.” The artist depicts Towkwit here as a young David from the parable of David and Goliath.)

Beau Dick Ghost of Christmas Presents, 2016 Western red cedar, acrylic, graphite, feathers, nail, Canadian banknotes 13 × 8.5 × 6 in (A gray mask smiling with feathers and Canadian paper currency on top of its head. The eyes are painted a light green and the mouth pink and red. “Ghosts travel with Bak ̓was and attend to his needs. Since they have the power to resurrect the dead they are also associated with Tuxw’i”)