Mo Itl, Silkscreen by Beau Dick (1955-2017), Kwakwaka'wakw
by Chief Beau Dick (1955-2017), Kwakwaka'wakw
framed silkscreen print, edition 65/118
16.5" tall x 20.5" wide x 1" deep
This print depicts Sisiutl (The Double Headed Sea Serpent) with two Seals on either side. Sisiutl symbolizes protection, supernatural power and revival. It is one of the most powerful symbols in Kwakwaka’wakw culture. The Sisiutl is a supernatural three-headed serpent that possesses shapeshifting abilities and the ability to turn spectators into stone when gazed upon. Not only can the Sisiutl change shape into a human or animal, but it can also transform its body into a self-propelled canoe that the owner must feed with seals.
Chief Beau Dick (1955-2017), Walas Gwa’yam was a Kwakwaka’wakw (Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw First Nation) artist and activist who was acclaimed as one of the Northwest Coast’s most versatile and talented carvers. He was born in the community of Alert Bay, BC, and lived in Kingcome Inlet, Vancouver, and Victoria before returning to Alert Bay to live and work. He began carving at an early age, studying under his father, Benjamin Dick, his grandfather, James Dick, and other renowned artists such as Henry Hunt and Doug Cranmer. He also worked alongside master carvers Robert Davidson, Tony Hunt, and Bill Reid.
In support of the Idle No More movement, Dick performed two spiritual and political Copper-breaking ceremonies on the steps of the British Columbia legislature in Victoria in 2013, and on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in 2014. Dick created several important public works, including a transformation mask for the Canadian Pavilion at Expo 86 in Vancouver and the Ga’akstalas Totem Pole for Stanley Park, carved with Wayne Alfred and raised in 1991.
His work has been shown in exhibitions around the world, including Canada House, London, UK (1998); the 17th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2010); documenta 14 in Athens, GR, and Kassel, DE (2017); and White Columns, New York (2019). He was the recipient of the 2012 VIVA Award and was artist-in-residence at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory from 2013 to 2017.