Joe David – Curator’s Choice Winter 2022

“I do it out of respect for the ancestors, so that the heart, soul and spirit of their art lives on.” – Joe David

In 1975, Joe realized that he needed to leave Seattle, where his parents had moved when he was younger, and to return ‘home’ to British Columbia so he could follow in the footsteps of his ancestors. He felt a strong desire to be in the place where his forefathers had developed the Tla-o-qui-aht aesthetics of Northwest Coast Indigenous art.

While living in Seattle as a teenager, he applied to a commercial arts program in Texas where he developed many of the skills he has used his entire career. Over time, he would eventually come to be recognized as one of the earliest printmakers who worked in the Nuu-chah-nulth style.

During the early 70’s, Joe crossed paths with Duane Paso who was influential as both mentor and teacher. Through Duane, he met Bill Holm who wrote the book Northwest Coast Indian Art which is considered the ‘bible’ of the formline system practiced by artists. He would attend Bill’s classes at the University of Washington even though he was not a student.

As Joe transitioned from being a student, he created his own style that was a more flowing version of the traditional formline, which he called the fluid or liquid line.

Since the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples had no written word; “we had carved forms and paintings [and] it’s no different than a great piece of literature.“, says Joe.

Over the course of his artistic life, Joe decided to pursue a more contemporary medium than the typical cedar wood so he studied at the PilChuk Glass School in Washington State and his connection to the studio now goes back more than 20 years.

As an renowned artist and carver who has been instrumental in the resurgence of Nuu-chah-nulth art and culture, Joe still continues to study and carve without any plans to do otherwise.

In additional awards and acknowledgements over his career as an artist and dancer, in 1981, internationally-renowned Haida artist Robert Davidson adopted Joe David at a potlatch and was given a new name in the Eagle lineage.

His constant dedication and daily application to his art continues to this day and he encourages younger artists to study historic artefacts and visit museums to view pieces in person.

Although Joe has travelled from one place to another, he always manages to return to his roots here on the west coast.

Artist interview video courtesy of the BC Achievement Foundation, please click here as well as another video ‘Carver to Carver – Joe David Visual Signatures’ hosted by Gordon Dick, please click here.

To view Joe David’s entire collection in our Gallery and for more details, please click here.