Beau Dick (Kwakwaka’wakw)
Red cedar & acrylic
22″ x 31″ x 17″ (including branches)
Beau Dick was one of the most versatile carvers on the coast and was a master of many styles. This Thunder Spirit Mask is indicative of this talent. Here Beau employs his extensive knowledge of Bella Coola/Nuxalk style to create a unique work that is his own. The history of the Thunder Spirit is a long one. The Bella Coola/Nuxalk people live in a relatively isolated area about 90 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and north of the Kwakwaka’wakw people. Their dialect, artistic style and mythology are unique. Unlike many other Northwest Coast groups who believe that thunder comes from supernatural creatures like Thunderbird, the Nuxalk believe it is a humanoid being like the one depicted in this mask that is responsible. The Thunder Spirit mask is a secret society mask that is part of the kusiut ritual. It is one of the most powerful and feared figures. It is often danced in sets of four, representing four brothers who had historic battles over a stick that could bring thunder and lightening. These brothers are integral to the mythology of the Nuxalk people as a community that rests in a valley of four mountain peaks. Beau’s ability to infuse the wood he carves with power and emotion does justice to such a powerful and important character.