Beau Dick, who passed away last year at age 61, was an artist and activist born in Kingcome Inlet, a Kwakwaka’wakw village north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. A new documentary, “Maker Of Monsters: The Extraordinary Life Of Beau Dick,” details his life from apprentice artist, learning to carve traditional totem poles from his father and grandfather, to master craftsman who mixed elements of Japanese manga and other styles into beautiful wooden masks that sell at galleries all over the world.
“My experience is that anyone who encounters a piece of Beau’s immediately has an emotional reaction,” says Vancouver gallery owner and “Maker of Monsters” co-producer LaTiesha Fazakas, “because his work is so animated and it feels like you’re encountering a character when you encounter one of his masks.”
The same could be said for the man himself. A soft-spoken narrator, he weaves the story of his growth as an artist and First Nations activist throughout this engaging documentary, building a portrait of a person one friend called magical. “You can see it in him,” she says.
“For the longest time I couldn’t recognize Beau’s work,” says collector Hervé Curat, “and to me that was magic. Too many artists have a fantastic style but they have only one. So many times I have looked at his work and thought, ‘That has to be Beau because nobody else would dare do that.’
His work as an artist and activist—we see his 2013 public copper-cutting ceremony at the BC Legislature to protest the disregard of Indigenous treaty rights—are inseparable but “Maker of Monsters” makes sure to emphasize the man behind the art and social action. The result is a loving look at the legacy of a charismatic presence whose concern for his people’s culture and the environment was genuine and wide ranging. “Who is our family?” he asks near the end of the movie. “All of us.”