Chazz Mack is a young and talented artist of both Nuxalk and Heiltsuk heritage. He is a member of the Heiltsuk Nation but he has resided in Nuxalk Territory for most of his life. Chazz is a member of the Raven, Grizzly and Double Headed Sea Serpent clan from Bella Coola. Born and raised in Bella Coola, Mack is a graduate of the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art and has also taught at the Acwsalcta School.
He has been practicing art for over a decade and describes himself as being "surrounded" by art and artists his entire life. His father, Joe Mack, is a well-known artist in the local community.
Mack is a prolific painter and his work is engaging and fluid. He paints "whatever comes into his mind" and his work often reflects the natural world around him. Animals of the land and sea are popular themes in his work.
In addition to painting, Mack also carves with alder and cedar, and creates unique jewelry. His work "blends traditional and contemporary elements" and has a sense of youthfulness and luminosity. He also assisted in the carving of two significant community totem poles in the past year. His Nuxalk name is Nunuusxli which means "Is a fast learner" or "likes to learn things."
"My hope is that my work helps to keep the traditions alive so they are passed onto the next generation."
Clyde Young is talented artist of Nuxalk heritage who has deep roots in the Bella Coola Valley - his mother was from the Mack family of Noosgulch and his father, of Chinese descent, was born in the Saloompt River Valley.
Clyde is a self-taught artist with a deep appreciation for Nuxalk culture and stories, saying both are the “essence” of his work. He has been carving and creating art for over 25 years, beginning with miniature masks which have come to be one of his signature pieces and can now be found all over the globe.
He most often works with wood, yellow and red cedar, but you can also find him experimenting in all sorts of mediums including bone, antler, stone, glass, even mirrors. He describes his style as “modern, but with an old-world feel,” and, having been raised on the land, animals his most often treasured subjects.
Clyde describes himself as a “lifelong learner” and is constantly striving to broaden his knowledge of Nuxalk language and history, and this is evident in the depth and sincerity of his work. Community members often come to Clyde for ceremonial potlatch masks, his most recent being a Wolf mask that was danced at the Snow Potlatch in Bella Coola.
“I hope that each piece I do brings people a little more understanding of Nuxalk people, our history, our stories and our origins. As I learn our stories I try to place them into my work to help portray that to other people, and to myself.”
Lyle Mack is a Nuxalk artist from Noosgulch, the traditional home of the Mack family. He has been carving, painting and drawing for most of his life.
A graduate of the Freda Diesing School for Northwest Coast Art, Mack has spent years apprenticing under his father, master carver and artist Alvin Mack. He considers his art to be a blend of traditional Nuxalk style with contemporary influences, but he characterizes himself as a "traditions first" type of artist.
Through his work as an art teacher at the Acwsalcta School and in the community, Mack is constantly pushing to improve his art and further his Nuxalkmc culture.
"What happened to the Nuxalk people motivates me to work harder, so I know that our ancestors didn’t suffer for nothing," Mack explains. "The art is healing for our people."
Mack carves masks, spoons and plaques with alder and red and yellow cedar. He also paints, creating a unique blend of traditional and contemporary designs. In 2014 he completed a 360 degree sculpture for the first Sputc (Eulachon) Ceremony to be held in the community in over 50 years.
"Mostly every piece I do has a Nuxalk story, a family story, behind it. If it’s a more contemporary piece, its often connected to current issues we face today about the land, like the disappearance of the eulachons."
James Mack, Chief Kamalsuuncw, is the Hereditary Chief of the Mack family, whose traditional territory is located at Noosgulch in the upper part of the Bella Coola Valley. Mack comes from a long line of talented
carvers, and was inspired by watching his father, Willie Mack, continue to carve in the traditional Nuxalk style when the art was only being practiced by very few.
Mack, a graduate of the K’san School of Northwest Coast Art (now known as Freda Diesing), has been carving for over 20 years. A self-proclaimed "late bloomer", he has held a teaching position at the local high school for over a decade, and his work has been shown in galleries across BC.
Mack prefers to work with wood, although he also creates some jewelry and paintings. He sticks with the
traditional "Nuxalk style" but considers his work to be modern as well, as he uses both modern and traditional tools. "Fascinated" by the production of bentwood boxes, Mack remains keen to learn new
techniques. He is committed to the finer details, admitting to a penchant for clean lines and a nice finish.
"Seeing the master carvers when they produce something, it gives me the ambition and drive to improve myself and be up there alongside them."
A hereditary chief of the Nuxalk Nation, Skip was born and raised on Nuxalk Territory and has been carving for 25 years. A self-taught artist, Skip knew from a young age that carving was in his blood.
"I must have been seven years old when another carver pressed a knife in my hand and helped me carve a pole in the townsite," recalled Saunders. "It’s hereditary, my ancestors were master builders. When my eldest son was a baby, I put woodchips in his basket. Now he’s creating masterpieces."
Skip is a woodcarver and carves predominantly with red cedar, the "wood of masters." He creates masks and plaques based on the supernatural beings of the Nuxalk smayustas or "stories of origin." He considers his work to be both traditional and contemporary, and he’s a perfectionist, creating clean, hard lines.
In 2014, Skip carved a large traditional ocean-going canoe that was paddled by Nuxalkmc in the 2014 Tribal Journey’s Qatuwas Festival to the neighbouring community of Bella Bella, 130 nautical miles west of his hometown of Bella Coola.
"The intent of my work has always been cultural; to foster my Sutslmix culture and uplift my traditional teachings through art."
Alvin Mack is an accomplished and well-respected artist of the Nuxalk Nation. A serious artist for over 30 years, Mack has mentored dozens of young artists through his work at the local Acwsalcta School and as a leader in the community.
From the Noosgulch region of the Bella Coola Valley, Mack’s grandmother Mary Samson was the last person to be born at the Mack family’s original village site.
Mack considers creating art akin to culture, and sees no distinction between the two. He is
passionate about his Nuxalkmc culture and sees the art as an essential vessel to keeping traditions alive and educating people about Nuxalk history.
He cites his own father, Willie Mack, as one of his greatest influences, recalling that Nuxalk art would have almost died out if it wasn’t for a few dedicated carvers who kept the art alive, his father being one of them. He considers his work to be more traditional, focusing on the Nuxalk story each piece conveys.
In 2014 Alvin was the recipient of the prestigious BC Creative Lifetime Achievement Award.
"I always go back to our history, and that history has so much lost information that needs to be rebuilt in our community. So the subject for me is to bring that history out: who we are, where we’re from, and we can let the world know "this is us" through our art."
Sheldon Tallio, a cultural leader in the Nuxalk community, has been creating art for almost 30 years. Moulded by the elders of the Nuxalk Nation, Tallio has been active in producing art, creating drums, and singing and dancing at cultural functions and potlatches for decades. He considers art to be interconnected with all aspects of the culture, and his work is reflective of traditional Nuxalk beliefs in a changing landscape.
Tallio is a talented painter and his work pushes the boundaries of tradition; daring to use colours and styles not yet explored. His inspiration comes mostly from the past and his natural surroundings, and much of his artwork will arrive in the form of a vision before it’s created.
In addition to painting, Tallio also carves masks, creates panels depicting family smayustas (creation stories), and makes drums in the traditional style. He is keenly aware of the responsibility of carrying on Nuxalk tradition and takes his cultural role seriously, with a depth of understanding of the connection between art and life.
"You can’t have an artist without a dancer, you can’t have a drummer without a song. You have to look at the whole picture. It’s not just a canvas and a paintbrush; it’s the bridge between past and present."
Noel Pootlass, Chief Sixlaxaalyc, is the Hereditary Chief of the village of Qomqots, upon which most members of the Nuxalk Nation now reside and he carries on traditional responsibilities for the land. A self-taught artist, Pootlass has learned from master carver Alvin Mack as he’s progressed, and he’s talented and hardworking - producing multiple pieces in one session.
Pootlass characterizes his work as both traditional and contemporary, gleaning most of his inspiration from the stories of supernatural beings, passed on through generations from his ancestors. He considers carving, especially mask carving, to be a spiritual experience, and this is evident in his work.
Pootlass also paints, producing both traditional works and contemporary landscape and wildlife creations. However, he prefers to return to those traditions that have been handed down through generations and are considered the lifeblood of the Nuxalkmc people.
"When a person comes into my shop and they fall in love with a particular piece, when it brings them joy in their heart, and they have a connection to that piece: that’s what I hope for when I create art."
Troy Anderson is a Nuxalk/Heiltsuk artist born and raised in Bella Coola. He is of both Nuxalk and Heiltsuk descent, and carries the Anderson name of his Heiltsuk family.
Largely a self-taught artists, Anderson is a well-known silver jeweler in his home community of Bella Coola, and residents turn to him to create pieces for community events such as potlatches, memorials and weddings.
He first learned the art of jewelry making at Acwsalcta School and credits his early teacher, accomplished jeweler and Nuxalk elder Amos Tallio, with giving him the inspiration to stay with it.
He mostly creates pieces that reflect Nuxalk family crests, and in that sense his work is very traditional. But, he is also well-known for exquisite designs not often seen in traditional native art, such as butterflies. He admits to a penchant for the finer details and thoroughly enjoys the creative process of his work.
“I really enjoy creating a piece that represents a family’s crest, because they hold the most meaning for people. My main hope is that people derive enjoyment from my work.”