Dempsey Bob

Dempsey Bob was born in 1948. He is a Tlingit artist who creates many kinds of artwork. He believes that his work is always growing as he becomes a more mature artist. He believes that an artist is born an artist. You can be self-taught, but you have to ..."have that passion". Through the years, he has become more sculptural and has better developed his designs. Dempsey doesn't like to have any of his work displayed in his house. He feels that he has to get better and change some more. Dempsey believes that tradition evolves like life evolves. "If you're not growing, you're dying...your art has to have life...it has to reflect today." He recalls, "I used a mirror once in a display to reflect a design. A passer by critiqued me because it wasn't traditional. I said, in a hundred years it will be. Then, you won't be here and I won't be here to quarrel about it. Every traditional piece was once contemporary."

Dempsey believes that you have to be original to be an artist, it's the values that are traditional. "Where you live and are from is important to how you think. It's the people around and being close to nature that make it that way. Once you forget the land, you forget your place."

Dempsey Bob has very firm beliefs about art. He believes that art has to have a direction, it has to come from a base of understanding. "I carve because I have to ....it's a gift, but it's also a curse. It's good but you just have to do it. Art is my life." As a teacher, his advice to aspiring artists should definitely be heard. "Life is what we do most honestly." He says that aspiring artists should practice their art, do their homework, and know their history and culture. "The serious ones will get there ....if you stop learning, you're finished ...your art doesn't get worse or better. It's like quitting."

Dempsey learned things from Art School his own way. He had to find his own style, his own way of doing his art. "Old pieces were valid in that time and belong to that time." He learned much in his life from experience and doing things, not from University. He has been giving lectures at schools and believes that his art is slowly evolving. "I'm trying to make it real to our people today." Dempsey Bob wants to keep his peoples's art alive. "Our people didn't carve for fifty years ...that's why I teach. I can't deny who I am, who my grandfather is, who my grandmother is."

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