Josh Dawson, also known by his Hamatsa name Gwatala-galeese Taneese, was born in January 1981 in the small community of Alert Bay, off the northern end of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. He is a member of the ‘Namgis band of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation and was introduced to carving at the age of 17 by his cousin, Anthony Dawson. Since then he has been refining his skills under the tutelage of two of the master carvers in his village, his uncle, Beau Dick, and his cousin, Wayne Alfred. He also contributes much of his inspiration to native artist, Willie Seaweed.
In 2010, one of his pieces was displayed in Reykjavík, Iceland, as part of the United States Embassy Reyjavík’s cross-cultural Art in Embassies Exhibition. Highlighting his own signature style, this Bukwus mask (wild man of the woods) exemplified the expressiveness and power Dawson imbues into wood, resulting in pieces that showcase traditional artistry and control over his materials.
Dawson is best known for his masks, carved primarily from red or yellow cedar, and richly detailed with paint, cedar bark, and horsehair, contemplating subjects which reveal his intimate connection with his Native heritage. In addition to his participation in potlatch ceremonies, he is fluent in the Kwak’wala language and a singer of traditional songs through which the stories and beliefs of the Kwakwaka’wakw have survived.