Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 4-15-2019


Shawn Hunt is an artist of Heiltsuk (Bella Bella), French, and Scottish Canadian ancestry who is at the forefront of contemporary Northwest Coast art in the Vancouver area. Historic artworks of his community have been often overlooked in scholarly literature due to the seeming willingness of the people to adapt to colonization. Viewed as a “tainted” culture, the Heiltsuk have been noticeably ignored in the art historical realm. However, their masks are some of the best examples of traditional regalia that are found in museums across Canada and the United States. Contemporary native artists of the Northwest Coast continue to use these works as examples for their own pieces today – these artists are merely continuing tradition in the modern day.

Hunt is making strides towards blending the “traditional” and the “contemporary” native art worlds into an inclusive, more indigenous notion of art today. His works speak about indigenous identity and what the “authentic” native looks like today. Hunt’s work Transformation Mask is the best example of his work intersecting the boundaries of western categories of native art. He is able to blend the ideas of “native,” “contemporary,” and “traditional” through the utilization of oral histories, clan imagery, and commercial technologies. My thesis discusses Hunt’s work in relation to long-standing Heiltsuk art practices. It breaks new ground as the first in-depth examination of Hunt’s Transformation Mask which explores the issues of identity, respect for ceremony and expansion on traditions, and the resistance to colonial narratives.

Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)

Joyce Szabo

Second Committee Member

Loa Traxler

Third Committee Member

Aaron Fry

Fourth Committee Member

Clarence Cruz


Shawn Hunt, Northwest Coast, Heiltsuk, Mask, Masks, Art, Native American Art, Transformation mask