Billy was born on July 7, 1978, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador and is of Inuit and Métis descent. In his early years he travelled eastern Canada residing and schooling in Ottawa, Yarmouth and Halifax in Nova Scotia, then at the age of thirteen returned to live in Goose Bay. He now lives in North West River in Labrador and enjoys fishing and hunting on the land with his family.
In 1996, he began to carve after his mom arranged for him to visit his cousin John
Terriak, a known sculptor in Labrador. John gave him a piece of stone and some
files with which he carved his first piece — a small Inuk Portrait. At the time he was
working at a gas station and on the sale of his second piece of Inuk Ice Fishing for
$180, he decided that carving was not too difficult and that he would try to carve full
time. He bought more tools and with the support of his family settled into a career
as an artist.
From 1996 to 2007, he continued to carve selling his pieces in galleries in Labrador
and New Brunswick, and participating in small exhibitions. In 2007, he was introduced
to our gallery by Herb Brown as an artist with extraordinary talent who needed the
opportunity to exhibit on the international stage. Since then, we have included Billy’s
artworks in all our Inuit exhibitions including Mini-Masterworks 2 and 3, Woven in
Time and Spirit Wrestler: Shaman, Sedna and Spirits, to much acclaim.
This is his first major solo exhibition and will comprise of over 20 sculptures carved
by him over a two-year period. The sculptures vary in size but are all intimately
carved with delicate detailing and inlays. The pieces are carved in a variety of
materials including serpentine, anhydrite, ivory, antler and bone and reveal personal
memories, as well as insights on traditional life in Labrador. He has never fallen into
the pitfalls of repetition or predictability. It is obvious that he is truly excited about
the creative process and each piece explores a narrative story, captures a moment
in time, portrays characters he has met and envisions the darkest possibilities of the
Billy has always been fascinated with human faces and their individual expressions.
Even as a child he practiced and enjoyed sketching portraits. He says his art has
been greatly influenced by the detailing in the carvings of Kiawak Ashoona, the free
flowing graphics of Kenojuak Ashevak, and the sculptural forms and perfect inlaying by fellow Labrador artist, Michael Massie. His minute carved studies in ivory, bone and stone have often been compared to Japanese netsuke and appeal to collectors who appreciate miniature work.
The Spirit Wrestler Gallery has been exhibiting his sculptures for several years and watched as his artworks have found homes in the oldest and most established Inuit art collections, as well as drawing new collectors to the art form. It is a pleasure to work with an artist with such unlimited potential and we are excited to be hosting this solo exhibition.
It is early in his career and already his innovative and personal style has established him as one of the definitive Inuit artists of his generation. We look forward to watching Billy’s career develop in the future and sharing his journey with you. We hope that you will be able to visit the gallery to view the exhibition and meet the artist.