Joe David

Joe David

Joe David is of Nuu-chah-nulth heritage, and part of his childhood was spent in the Clayoquot village of Opitsat on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The culture and mythos of the Nuu-chah-nulth connects deeply to the waters: the whaling journeys which are central to the rhythms of life; the mythic characters who swim, float and appear in the fog over the waves. Parts of Joe David’s work embody the rarified air of the Nuu-chah-nulth culture, bringing the artforms and legends straight to the modern world.

Yet, other aspects of David’s art are wholly characteristic of the contemporary: having spent portions of his childhood in Seattle, the artist effortlessly walks the line between island and city. His work encompasses both sides of the spectrum in exciting dichotomy. David utilizes various media, ranging from acrylic paintings to serigraphs to wood carving to hot-sculpted glass. This ability to straddle and synthesize ancient traditions with contemporary media is a hallmark of David’s deeply important art, and brings it to the forefront of the form.

After attending art school in the late sixties and then working as a commercial artist, David’s interests turned more specifically to Northwest Coast Native art. His friendship with Bill Holm and Duane Pasco led all three into new explorations of the art of Southern Northwest Coast along with their work in the Northern formline style. Working with his cousin, Ron Hamilton, Joe experimented with serigraphs featuring traditional West Coast design motifs in–what was for the time–a new and innovative medium.

David has recently begun to incorporate glass into his repertoire—a material that ties the burgeoning Northwest medium to the ancient artforms of the region. He has developed ties to the famed Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, WA, introduced to that medium by noted native glassblower Preston Singletary.

Joe David has been instrumental in the resurgence of Nuu-chah-nulth art and ceremony. His art reflects a deep commitment to spirituality and cultural heritage. The character of Bukwus—a primeval wild man who lurks in all humanity—often makes appearances in his work, reminding us that whether ancient or modern, we are connected by the same deep currents, the same spirit.

“When I was in my late twenties I realized how important it was that I move back home to my birthplace and birthright, and more importantly the birthplace of my family’s and people’s culture and art. Because I believed that there and only there was the true life source. And I believed this for myself and for no other. Other artists can believe and speak for themselves.

And, for me, it proved true. I not only found my art’s power, I found my personal power. And I would have gladly spent the rest of my days there amongst my people and our homerights.

But it wasn’t meant to be, as I was invited away and sent away by the ancients and the future. Heavy hearted, but resolute to answer my calling, I have now for over twenty years been adrift in tides of change and evolution spiritually culturally and artistically, and in the hot and cold face of mystery, holding faith that my guide be true.

I recently returned home for a carvers gathering to find in my absence all is relatively well. But soon maybe it’ll be time to return, and take my place this time as an elder and teacher.”