Cedar, operculum shell, paint
Art Thompson was born in 1948 in the village of Whyac on the southern end of Nitinat Lake. He belonged to the Ditidaht Band of the Nuu-chah-nulth people. Art was fortunate to be immersed in the cultural life of his people from an early age when he was initiated into the Tlukwalla society. As a small boy, he showed great interest in artistic expression. This was encouraged by his paternal grandfather, from whom he learned the history, songs, and dances of his people.
In 1967, Art enrolled in the Commercial Art program at Camosun College in Victoria. He worked largely in two-dimensional mediums such as paint and pastels. During this time he began to explore a narrative style with traditional Nuu-chah-nulth design. His advanced understanding of the traditional Nuu-chah-nulth design came at a time when this style had been virtually overlooked in the scholastic studies which were shaping the growing interest in Northwest Coast art. His personal contribution included using strong contemporary and traditional design shapes with a narrative approach to myth and legend. These early serigraph prints are now considered a turning point in establishing Art Thompson, Nuu-chah-nulth design, and the print medium as a whole in the contemporary art market.
Art Thompson had also been carving for as long as he had been doing two-dimensional design and his carving followed a similar course leading to the discovery of a distinctive West Coast style. For about three years in the mid-1970s, Art abandoned carving to focus on graphic design. By 1980 when he resumed carving, experimenting with a number of different tribal styles. By the mid-1980s, Art was carving his own tribal style, Nuu-chah-nulth. He became known for his speed and excellence in design and execution. He was a deeply spiritual man who fostered many up-and-coming artist at this same time. He gave many potlaches and was a prolific singer and dancer.
On Sunday, March 30, 2003, Art Thompson passed away in his Victoria home after a four-month battle with cancer.
John Livingston was not Indigenous by birth but became friends with Henry Hunt, whose father, Mungo Martin, was head carver for the Thunderbird Park carving program at the Royal B.C. Museum.
From 1971 to 1981, he and Calvin Hunt apprenticed with Tony Hunt Sr., carving totems at the park.
In 2017, the Hunt family adopted Livingston, making him part of the Kwakwaka’wakw people.
Livingston acted as co-curator in 1993 of the first of several exhibitions at Victoria’s Alcheringa Gallery featuring the work of the Hunt family.
John Livingston, a master carver, painter, and mentor who lived in Victoria, died of cancer on March 9. He was 67.