Dempsey Bob

Tahltan/Tlingit

Dempsey Bob is a Tahltan Tlingit artist, born at Telegraph Creek on the Stikine River, and is a member of the Wolf clan.  He began carving about 1970, first studying with Freda Diesing at Prince Rupert and later, in 1972 and 1974 at the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Indian Art and Design.

Although he works in silver and gold, his preferred medium continues to be wood and more recently, bronze.  Bob's pieces are executed with a deft and sure hand, smoothly integrating sculpture and two-dimensional design as they trace the artist's exploration of the old Tlingit style. On his much sought-after bronze work Bob has this to say: "Bronze has a different feel to it.  It's new, and it's a challenge to make it goodOur 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% copper"

Beyond his role as a renowned artist, Dempsey Bob has played an important part in inspiring the next generation of Northwest Coast artists. He is the senior advisor at the Northwest Community College (NWCC) Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.

His work is in many important museum and gallery collections including the Canadian Museum of Civilization; the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology; the Columbia Museum of Ethnology; the Smithsonian Institution; National Museum of Ethnology in Japan; Hamburgisches Museum fur Volkerskkunde in Hamburg, Germany, and the Royal British Columbia Museum.  In 2013 he received the Order of Canada for his work as a teacher and an artist. It is one of Canada's highest civilian orders, recognizing a lifetime of outstanding achievement and merit of the highest degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.

“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% 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.”

-Dempsey Bob

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