Born in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Nunatsiavut, NL, Billy Gauthier is an artist and activist currently based in North West River, NL. He initially began to carve in 1996, and was inspired by his cousin, John Terriak, a skilled Nunatsiavut sculptor, to create further works .
Gauthier creates intricately detailed, mixed-media sculptures with various materials, such as stone, bone, antler, ivory, sinew and baleen (whalebone). His work often depicts traditional Inuit practices, cosmologies, spirituality and personal memories. Gauthier’s carvings also address contemporary challenges that many Inuit families and communities experience across Inuit Nunangat, such as food insecurity, substance abuse, the impacts of environmental degradation and concern for the environment and wildlife. The undated Narwhal Hunt exemplifies the artist's practice. Created with anhydrite, serpentine, whalebone, sinew, labradorite, caribou antler and moose antler, it features a number of diminutive hunters amongst a swirling, light grey mass of sculpted waves and walruses. Narwhal Hunt highlights traditional hunting practices as well as the importance of the walrus as a food source for many communities across the North.
Gauthier describes a strong link between his experiences on the land and his art practice. “I'm constantly trying to change my style and learn new ways to manipulate the materials,” he says. “I've always been evolving and changing. I'm curious what's around the corner. Whenever I go hunting and fishing, I'm usually the annoying person to take out because I never want to leave. And that's the way I look at my artwork, too. What else can I create? How far can I push the materials?”
His inaugural solo exhibition—Billy Gauthier: Visions From Labrador—was featured at Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver, BC in 2010, selling out immediately. Gauthier's work was also included in the touring exhibition SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut from 2017 to 2019, with his first-mid career retrospective, Saunituinnaulungitotluni | Beyond Bone, presented at The Rooms in St. John’s, NL in summer 2019.
Gauthier is also an activist as well as an environmental advocate and activist. In October 2016, he participated in a 13-day hunger strike with other members of his community, Delilah Saunders and Jerry Kohlmeister, to protest the flooding of the reservoir at Muskrat Falls, which posed a risk of contaminating the Churchill River with methylmercury and could flow downstream impacting many Inuit families. The strike ended on October 26, 2016, when an agreement was made between Gauthier, Saunders, Kohlmeister and Premier Dwight Ball .
Gauthier's work has been exhibited at various art galleries across Canada, including the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax, NS, the Winnipeg Art Gallery in Manitoba, and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, ON, among many others. In 2009, Gauthier's work was featured on the cover of the Inuit Art Quarterly and in 2011, he received the Newfoundland and Labrador Art Council's award for Emerging Artist of the Year.
In May 2023 Gauthier was shortlisted for the 2023 Kenojuak Ashevak Memorial Award.