Dawn's work is most often inspired by her lifelong love of the human condition, what she describes as ‘the beauty of human frailty.'
Interpreting universal human form, or architectonic column-like forms, she generally works with natural materials. There is an increasing interest in her life size willow works cast into bronze for outdoor installations and sculpture gardens.
Recently, she remarried and came to live in rural Pictou County (Nova Scotia) where, coincidentally, she was born. As her husband and she worked to restore the old house on his property to make it into a working studio, they discovered, looking at the property deed and at her father’s genealogy, that the studio was built in 1838 by her great great great grandfather, Alexander James Reid.
A gentle giant of a man, her husband Merle, has brought colour into her life. Colour crept into her work tentatively at first, but the passion to layer colour on form keeps growing. Working in this ancestral space, looking out to the rural landscape of the woods, so near the ocean, a sense of joy and peace layers the former seriousness of her work.
She was inducted into the RCA (Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts) in 2008. She was honored in 2014 with Doctorate of Laws by Mount Allison University and in 2005 with Doctorate of Humane Letters by Mount St. Vincent University. As well as her exhibition and commission work, she is a member of the International Sculpture Centre, Nova Scotia Designer Craftsmen (Master Artisan), and Visual Arts Nova Scotia. She served as a national director on Canadian Craft Council from 1983-7.
She has led workshops and seminars in Canada and the U.S.A, and has served on local and national juries. Her career has been the subject of many published articles and reviews, and a filmed documentary.
Dawn MacNutt obtained her B.A. (Art and Psychology) in 1957 from Mount Allison University, New Brunswick. In 1970, she obtained the M.S.W., from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.