Barb Dawson is an artist and fourth year BFA student in the Visual Arts program. She is from the Yukon but currently resides in Kelowna: “I am originally from the Yukon, I am part of the Taku River Tlingits, of Atlin, BC. I am in the Visual Arts degree program. Something that I have thought about for a long time.”
Although Dawson has experimented with a wide range of mediums, her main mediums of expression include painting and screen printing. She draws from her cultural background and childhood with the work that she creates: “I have been focusing on two mediums lately. However, I have experimented with four altogether. I started out with sculpture, photography, painting and screen printing. I also tried digital arts, but realized I was not good at it. These days I am focusing on painting and screen printing. My main subjects have been elders of my childhood.”
The motifs and themes Dawson explores in her work is often rooted in her memories of her ancestors: “When I was growing up with my grandparents, they had taught me so much from being brought up with them. They have passed on now and I realized that no one was talking about them and so I thought if I painted their portraits, that it will bring their memory back into conversation again. So I have been painting my Great Grandfather Chief Taku Jack of Atlin, BC and my Grandparents George and Rachel Dawson of Whitehorse, Yukon. I painted Chief Taku Jack, and my Grandparents George and Rachel, I had screen printed. These portraits are like an homage to their life well lived.”
Dawson’s relationship with her artwork began at a young age. She describes the experiencing of entering the BFA program as a mature student: “I have always made art and so when I had the chance to apply for this degree program, I jumped in with both feet. As a mature student, it is either all in or not at all. So me being me, I jumped right in when I was accepted. So I can honestly say, that art has always been part of me, but I just never called myself an artist. But after I get my degree, I guess it’s legitimate.”
Dawson draws inspiration from other Northwest Coast artists such as herself and she hopes to carry on their legacy: “I have admired all the Northwest Coast artists and their ability to tell their story with the formline designs. I hope that I can work towards something similar. Carol Young Bagshaw- Steinbruek stands out, she started out as a mature student as well, and really made a name for herself in such a short time. Sadly she passed away recently. But I was really inspired when I met her here in Kelowna a few years ago. So I have to mention her for her perseverance.”
After graduation, Dawson plans to continue her practice in Kelowna with a possibility to pursue higher education: “I will continue to live in Kelowna, as I am thinking about continuing with graduate studies in Fine Arts. But I think that will be in a year, maybe take a breather for now and see what other ideas I can work on. A series of portraits of Elders who are important might be my direction.”
More of Dawson’s work can be found on her Instagram. A website is also in the works.