(The remarkable work of Penelakut artist Gus Modeste is on display at the Coastal Community Credit Union in downtown Chemainus. Mark Kiemele of the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society provides the following details on his life and work).
The 44-year-old Coast Salish carver and painter left not only a legacy of fine artistic lines, but also memories of a great and gentle sense of humour when he died on Jan. 9 after a long illness at Cowichan District Hospital.
Immediately following the large funeral on Penelakut Island, family members began working with the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society on a sale and exhibit of his remaining work. His aunt Connie Crocker is a member of the CVCAS board and of the organization’s First Nation committee.
“Gus would have really enjoyed all the laughter that we have had remembering him,” she said as she told the story of the time Gus used a jar of holy oil to cook a steak on her fishing boat.
The Rainforest Arts gallery, operated by CVCAS on the main street in Chemainus, has exhibited a numbered series of prints by Modeste since last year. The lithographs, entitled Mother’s Love, depict an orca whale and her dead calf.
“Gus heard a news story, that went around the world, and created this wonderful print,” Crocker said. “It really is special.”
The gallery, located beside the entrance to the Coastal Community Credit Union, started working with Crocker on mounting an exhibit and sale of Modeste’s work. As pieces came in, it soon outgrew the small gallery’s space, so the credit union stepped up and offered a large area for the exhibit.
“Already it has attracted hundreds of visitors,” Crocker said. “Gus was much loved by Chemainus and he got his start in carving at the high school here.
“He will be much missed,” she said. “But you’ll see smiles on all the faces at the exhibit. That’s what Gus has left us.”
The Remembering Gus Modeste exhibit and sale will be at the credit union until Feb. 4, but could be extended. Rainforest Arts gallery and the credit union are located at 9781 Willow Street, Chemainus.
Contact the gallery at 250-246-4861 or via its Facebook or web pages. All proceeds from the sales will go to the Modeste family.