Art and activism Meet Beau Dick: Maker of Monsters

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      A documentary by Natalie Boll and LaTiesha Fazakas. Rating unavailable

      The monsters in the subtitle are not the Hollywood sort, even though the late maker profiled here knew how to add some showbiz razzle-dazzle to work that was probing, respectful, mysterious, and—most of all—playful.

      The exemplary Meet Beau Dick, which celebrates the successful dance with modernity of a gifted traditional carver, was directed by Natalie Boll and LaTiesha Fazakas. The latter is a veteran gallerist and member of Dick’s extended family who took advantage of Boll’s extensive production background to pull together a fairly comprehensive look at the artist.

      Born Benjamin Kerry Dick in 1955, at the north end of Vancouver Island, he started as a trouble-prone rock ’n’ roll rebel who dug further and further into the integrity of older First Nations forms as he grew older (and his hair and beard grew longer). Dick’s own trove of archival footage and early images helps round out a picture that he partially narrated before dying earlier this year, just before the film was finished.

      He started out by assisting his father and grandfather in carving traditional totem poles but, after moving to Victoria and then Vancouver, was also drawn to more Eurocentric concepts, and even Japanese manga. This led to unique fusions—especially with his exquisite masks—that saw him embraced by both the gallery world and the First Nations groups he increasingly represented, as seen in the 2013 copper-cutting ceremony captured on film here, at the B.C. Legislature, to protest neglect (and worse) of Indigenous treaty rights.

      The fact that you couldn’t separate his art from his politics—and he wore both lightly, as a kind of trickster-shaman—is one reason an on-screen curator calls Dick “probably the best West Coast artist since contact”. It’s too bad so many of us missed meeting him, but this lovingly made 90-minute effort makes the case that his time isn’t over yet.