Cecil Dawson

Wood Carver, Painter, First Nations, Pryrographic Woodburner

Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada • Kwakuitl Nation

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Born into a family of artists, Cecil Dawson began his artistic career at a very young age. His grandfather Jimmy Dick, a totem and mask carver, taught Cecil the intricacies of carving. Cecil also spent time under the tutelage of his cousin, mask carver Simon Dick. Other masters who influenced Cecil's artistic gifts were his great uncles Willie Seaweed, Henry Speck, and Dick Hawkins.

Cecil is from the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation. His father is head chief of the Mountain Goat Hunter clan and his mother comes from the Wolf clan. Cecil's cultural involvement is important to him; he is a historian and an initiated Hamatsa dancer.

Cecil's great labour of love is to replicate his family's masks and bring them back into ceremonial use once again. By doing so, he honours his cultural and traditional values. Cecil has a strong sense of propriety and will not copy from a book. His pieces are unique and to his own style, demonstrating a deeply rooted understanding of his culture.

Cecil attended the Kootenay School of Art in Nelson, B.C. He thus combines the wealth of artistic knowledge obtained through family guidance with the multi media discipline of formal education. Cecil is successful in fusing both worlds through his experience and interpretations of tradition and legend with a grounding from his traditional culture and art forms.

His visual expressions of the world include pen and ink drawings of old village sites, pencil sketches of totem poles, carvings of rattles, masks, paddles and acrylic paintings on canvas and wood.

Cecil's grandmother encouraged him. She told him, "Study our people's art from the past, understand and interpret it, redefine it, make it yours. Do not leave it the way you found it because it is a living, breathing thing that needs to grow". Cecil recalls that when his grandmother spoke about the art, she was speaking about the people.

Artist Statement

“I see my art as a way to preserve my traditional and cultural identity; art is the way to express my people’s history. Each piece tells a story and is a way to teach the younger generations our history, like the masters taught me. I see myself as a bridge to better understanding, compassion and empathy between natives and non-natives; I use my artwork as the tool to reach this goal.”