Born in Montreal and moving to the west coast of Canada at a young age, Brian Walker met Bill Reid when he was twelve years old. At the time, Reid was beginning his first commission for the University of British Columbia. Over the next two years, Walker spent his spare time and summers at Reid’s studio, learning about Northwest coast carving designs and traditions. This experience sparked a lifelong passion for First Nations art and culture.
After moving to Yukon in 1969, Walker, who is non-indigenous, met his wife Ann Smith, a renowned Ravenstail weaver and member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and spent the next 30 years delving into a wide range of artistic pursuits including film making, woodcarving, bronze casting and boat building. During this time, he worked and studied with artists including Dempsey Bob, Keith Wolfe Smarch, Philip Janze, Mark Porter and many others who were involved in the revival of First Nations carving in Yukon.
It was during these explorations that Walker became interested in copper as an artistic medium because of its connections to Yukon First Nations history and its potential in terms of technique and scale. Through experimentation and by employing the ancient techniques of chasing and repousée, Walker was able to create works of art that reflect his skill as an artist and his passion for sharing the stories and culture of Yukon First Nations people.
Choosing to keep a low profile as an artist for the past decade, Walker has developed his practice by creating gifts and ceremonial objects, sharing his skills and knowledge through teaching, and participating in group exhibitions. He has gained recognition as a senior artist within his adoptive First Nation of Kwanlin Dün and within the wider First Nation artistic community.
Walker’s work can be found in the Yukon Permanent Art Collection and the Yukon Arts Centre’s collection. He has worked on many private and public commissions including a collaboration with fellow Yukon artists Keith Wolfe Smarch and Mark Porter on Where Legends Meet, a major public sculpture made of copper, bronze and steel created for the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in 1998.
He has been involved with programs and teaching for the Northern Cultural Expressions Society youth carving program in Whitehorse and was invited to participate in the 2014 Adäka Festival’s Journey project, a gathering of senior carvers from BC, Alaska, Yukon and New Zealand. In 2015 one of Walker’s copper sculptures was selected as a prize for the Arctic Inspiration Award and he and his wife Ann were the recipients of the Cultural Steward Award from the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association.
Walker and his wife are the centre of their large family and are respected Elders in the Kwanlin Dün First Nation. They work tirelessly to promote and preserve Yukon First Nations culture, sharing their knowledge for the education of the public and the benefit of present and future generations.