Born in Appleton, Minnesota in 1944, David Bierk moved to California with his mother as a child. He attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and received his MFA at Humboldt State University in Arcata. He emigrated to Canada in 1971, and in 1972 began teaching art at a local college in Peterborough, Ontario, which he continued for seven years. He founded the artist-run centre Artspace in 1974, and was its director until 1987, when he committed to painting full-time.
His works explore the relationship between traditional paintings and modern art-making practices by juxtaposing steel and concrete framing with painterly reconstructions of the work of Old Master artists such as Johannes Vermeer, Caravaggio and Leonardo da Vinci and nineteenth century painters such as Édouard Manet. As Donald Kuspit writes in the book on Bierk produced by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, "Bierk has undertaken a relentless and passionate scrutiny of art history as a counterpoint to contemporary society and culture."
He exhibited internationally in solo and group shows through the 1980s and 1990s in galleries ranging from Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York, Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto, Diane Farris Gallery in Vancouver and Odette Gilbert Gallery in London, England. In 1998 he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists. Bierk died in 2002. He was posthumously awarded the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal and his work is in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canada Council Art Bank.