Remarkable, distinguished, superb, extraordinary – all apply to Northwest Coast artist Dempsey Bob.
Bob is a Tahltan and Tlingit artist.
He has been carving for 53 years.
Bob began carving under the tutelage of the legendary Freda Diesing.
Diesing was rare – a Haida – in that as a woman she was part of the major revival in Northwest Coast art in the 1960s.
As a master carver, painter, educator, she mentored and taught many of the Northwest Coast’s top artists – Bob was one of them.
He is known for his abilities of blending contemporary with the traditional style of Tahltan-Tlingit sculptural art.
He sculpts – using wood, bronze and other metals.
His sculptures using bronze and other metals are spectacular.
The scope and artistic abilities of his art have been widely recognized, twofold.
Receiving numerous awards, recognizing him as an important artist.
His works are featured in major museum collections and galleries around the world – including the Columbia Museum of Ethnology, the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Ethnology in Japan, and Canada House in London.
He is well known for mentoring and teaching aspiring young artists.
In 2013, he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada — one of the country’s highest civilian honours.
Bob’s perspective on his art, his people’s historical art and its continual evolution is powerful.
“I have been carving alder and cedar for over thirty years, and for the past eight years I have been studying and sculpting bronze. Bronze has a different feel to it. It’s new, and it’s a challenge to make it good. Our people were great sculptors. They knew as much about sculpture as any other great cultures in the world. The great old northwest coast pieces in wood would make great bronze sculptures today.
“Tlingit people made copper masks, frontlets, jewelry and rattles, and bronze in 90 per cent copper. Our art has to evolve otherwise it will die. The old master artists carved bone, copper, gold, horn, ivory, silver, stone and wood. My great grandfather was a carver, and if he were carving today he would of “went to town” with all the new tools and materials. I often wonder where the art would be today if our people did not stop carving for all those years. We have to make our art real for our people today.”