Michael Dennis


Michael Dennis has lived on Denman Island for 30 years, carving monumental figures in salvaged cedar. Abstract and semi-representational, they have power, presence and personality and demonstrate Dennis’ intimate mastery of the human form.

Originally from California, a professor and neurophysiological research scientist at University of California, Berkeley, Michael made a dramatic shift in the 80s, from the academy of science to the practice of art, to making of “representations of self” and ancestral metaphors. His work is in prominent collections here and abroad. His carved figures are familiar in Vancouver with public installations at SFU, UBC and ‘Dude Chilling park.


If we could look far back in time, we can imagine our ancestors. They were much like us, although without the niceties which now overwhelm us.  They laughed and cried, sang and danced, told stories, fought and loved.  They lived and died, surrounded by animals.  As they warmed themselves by their fires, the shadows of their lives were cast on the walls.  I try now to sculpt those shadows.

The way we remember ourselves is foremost visual, paintings in caves, actors on screens.  I try to create the likeness of the human form stripped to its bare essentials, at its most elemental, without details of feature, like a shadow.  How few lines to signify as human a being.  What cues to recognize another, potential mate or competitor.  I would probe some old neural archive where primal images dwell,  speak an elemental visual tongue of our elemental form.  What wonder that I need only slightly change a line to imply gender,  or motion.  And with that implication of motion to imply time.  With just one inflection of a line to show time, that’s fine.


Reed College, Portland ORBachelor of Arts, 1963

Stanford University, Stanford CA, Phd in Neurophysiology, 1967

Harvard Medical School Instructor 1967-70

University College London, Research Fellow, 1970-72

University of California, San Francisco, Professor of Physiology 1972-79


Design Vancouver Competition won Vancouver, BC 1992

Sculpture Margam International Comp Margam Park, Port Talbot, Wales 1993

Inaugural Exhibition American Visionary Art Museum Baltimore, MD 1995-96

International Sculpture Symposium Volary, Czech Republic 1997

Millfield School Commission Glastonbury, England 1998

Gut Gasteil Sculpture Park Prigglitz, Austria 2000

University of Washington Commission Bothell, WA 2000

Art-Science Fusion Project Goldegg, Austria 2001

Okanagan International Sculpture Symposium Invited sculptor 2002


Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey BC

University of California, San Francisco, CA

Denman Island Community Hall, Denman Island, BC

Filberg Foundation, Comox, BC

Denman Island Senior Citizens Centre, Denman Island, BC

Guelph Park, City of Vancouver, BC

Port Angeles Fine Arts Centre, Port Angeles, WA

Margam Park, Port Talbot, Wales

Sprucefield Park, City of North Vancouver, BC

Simon Fraser University, BC

Denman Island Old School Centre, Denman Island, BC

Heron Rocks Society, Hornby Island, BC

Saghalle School, Federal Way, WA

City of Bellevue, Bellevue WA

Seattle Vocational Institute, Seattle, WA

Carillon Point, Kirkland, WA

City of Volary, Czech Republic

DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA

Millfield School, Glastonbury, England

University of Washington, Bothell, WA

Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino, BC

Olympic College, Poulsbo, WA

Chancellor House, University of British Columbia (2005)