David Neel has been working as a Northwest coast Native artist for 30 years. He began his career as a professional photographer, but chose to follow in his family's footsteps, and apprenticed with master carvers Wayne Alfred and Beau Dick starting in 1987. He then went on to carve traditional Native dance masks, totems poles and dug-out canoes, although he is best known for his Northwest Native American masks which deal with contemporary political, environmental and social issues.
His work has been exhibited in numerous public institutions, including the solo exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, the National Portrait Gallery in Ottawa and the Venice Biennale in Italy. When Neel started doing contemporary work, a style undertaken by very few Northwest Coast Native artists, his masks were very controversial. Even today, 20 years later, few First Nations artists use their work to comment on social issues, as seen in Neel's art. He states that, "Native Indian tradition is a foundation to build upon, not a boundary to restrain creativity."