Between tradition and vanguard spirit
Dempsey Bob belongs to the Wolf clan by matrilineal descent, and traces his ancestry through the Tahltan and Tlingit peoples. In his carvings, he blends traditional narratives and iconography with contemporary influences. His understanding of art and its purpose within community is informed by his profound connection with nature and his exposure to oral histories, songs and dances from a young age. Bob acknowledges the lineage to which he is indebted, yet he refuses nostalgia. Instead, he boldly reinterprets the traditional characters and iconography from the age-old stories of his people, at times inflecting these traditional tales with influences drawn from European art.
An ingenious combination of materials
The exhibition presents a judiciously curated selection of works from public and private collections across Canada: masks, panels, wall sculptures, vessels and regalia are complemented by Bob’s work in bronze casting, goldsmithing, printmaking and vestment production. The exhibition showcases his sophisticated carving style and his striking gift for storytelling in both art and language.
Credits and curatorial team
An exhibition organized and circulated by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, in Kleinburg, Ontario, and the Audain Art Museum, in Whistler, British Columbia. It is curated by Sarah Milroy, Chief Curator of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and Curtis Collins, Director and Chief Curator of the Audain Art Museum. Iris Amizlev, Curator – Community Engagement and Projects, MMFA, is the curator of the Montreal presentation.
Dempsey Bob (born in 1948) and Linda Bob (born in 1945), Wolves in the Snow Blanket, 1999-2002, mask clasp made by Dempsey Bob: alder, acrylic paint, leather fastening; blanket made by Linda Bob: felt, wolf fur, buttons, thread. McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, gift from Christopher Bredt and Jamie Cameron. © Dempsey Bob. Photo Craig Boyko
Dempsey Bob (born in 1948), Wolf Eagle Frontlet, 1996, alder, acrylic paint, abalone shell, sea lion whiskers. Collection of Eric Savics. © Dempsey Bob. Photo Rachel Topham