A carving done by Gus Modeste that’s in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo submitted)

Death of famed Penelakut artist Modeste mourned

World famous carving talents began at Chemainus Secondary School

Condolences have been pouring in for family members and friends after word spread Thursday about the death of celebrated Coast Salish artist Gus Modeste.

Modeste, a member of the Penelakut First Nation, had been living in Duncan and dealing with health problems in recent years.

“A very talented artist,” said Penelakut band administrator Jim Chisholm. “I met him a few times, a real nice fellow.”

Modeste attended Chemainus Secondary School and honed his craft as a student there, crediting woodwork teacher Walter Stoochnoff for inspiring him. One of his totems stands as a legacy at the entrance to the high school.

Modeste, who drew inspiration from carver Francis Horne, has carvings and prints all over the world, including Brussels, Belgium. One of Modeste’s most loved works, known as Mother’s Love, is a powerful interpretation of orca J35 from the southern resident killer whale population and her offspring. He also did magnificent canoe designs, including one for his own Penelakut village.

Social media exploded with comments following news of Modeste’s death.

“He opened my eyes to some of his views without effort,” noted Shane Harper. “I very much enjoyed some of his perspectives.”

He did phenomenal work,” Wes Bissett indicated.

Rainforest Arts on Willow Street in Chemainus is hoping some of his work will surface and proceeds of any sales will go to his family.

“His work is a gift to the world,” added Kathy Wachs. “His character was strong and sweet. Condolences to the many who love him.”

“He lives on through his art,” Hanna Miskiman remarked. “Condolences to the family.”

“This is such sad news,” offered Tammy Baines. “Gus was such a kind person and so talented.”

Chisholm said Modeste’s funeral service will be on Penelakut Island Friday, Jan. 17 at 9 a.m. at the elementary school gymnasium.

Because he was so well-known, a large turnout is expected.

“If people want to come over, they’re more than welcome to,” said Chisholm.

 

A sample of Gus Modeste’s amazing art. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Totem pole inside Chemainus Secondary School at the entrance was carved by Gus Modeste. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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