Born in the Comox Valley, Quinn James (Quineesh) is an artist of Kwakwaka’wakw ancestry. Named after a legendary glacier, he was given the name Quineesh, meaning white whale. While growing up, Quinn regularly attended potlatches and was taught the cultural ways of his people through his father, Simon Dick James. While under the guidance of his father, Quinn carved his first mask at the age of 13.
Quinn is well versed in the practice of his culture's traditional carving techniques and protocols. Quinn strives to express a unique contemporary style in his art while trying to stay as close as possible to his Kwakwaka'wakw roots. The tradition of mask carving is passed down through generations and is rarely adhered to in modern times. Quinn strives to honor this disappearing knowledge.
Quinn has danced in traditional regalia. He has also performed the Raven Transformation dance, utilising the age-old rigging system for dance masks. The experience of actually dancing with a mask has enhanced his artwork because he understands the importance of a fully functional dance mask, as opposed to one that is only decorative. Few contemporary artists create from such a knowledge base.
Traditionally, cedar was the most important component of embellishing dance masks. There is an old technique, handed down through generations of sustainably harvesting cedar bark strips for masks and regalia. Quinn has been taught how to properly do this by elders and has often harvested his own cedar bark for his artworks.
Spending time in carving shops all of his life, Quinn’s art has been influenced by artists such as Beau Dick, Ian Reid, and Junior Henderson. In addition to carving masks, Quinn has produced and assisted family with the carving and restoration of totem poles. Quinn is currently studying other art forms in University and plans to continually evolve his art style.