Kwakwaka’wakw (‘Namgis) 1968
Red cedar, copper, paint and string
Shawn Karpes began his artistic training as a woodcarver in 1982 under the tutelage of George Hunt Jr., Jim Gilbert, and Victor Newman, focusing on three-dimensional form. His involvement with carving led him to a deeper study of his family and cultural heritage. While working in Victoria in the 1980’s and 1990’s, he came to know many other artists from whom he drew inspiration, including Tony Hunt Sr., Tony Hunt Jr., and John Livingston. He also studied metalwork with Fah Ambers and canoe carving with Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick. Shawn blends traditional design with his own observations in depicting the natural and supernatural worlds.
Shawn has participated in numerous projects in and around Victoria, BC, including the restoration of the world’s tallest totem pole in Beacon Hill Park. In 1990, Shawn, Doug Cranmer, Stephen Bruce, Fah Ambers, Richard Sumner, and Jason Baker received special recognition for their contributions to the potlatch tradition. Shawn’s numerous commissions for Victoria schools and cultural organizations reflect his strong commitment to the perpetuation of First Nations cultural traditions as well as to the integration of First Nations art into broader communities.