“Weaving all these wonderful people into a warm blanket of appreciation, the memories of tonight should be something you would want to wrap yourself up in. So set sail with your book, Godfrey, and please ride on the sea of your admirers, friends and family. And may we help carry you to beyond the horizon beyond Godfrey’s navigation, beyond the now”
Above are words from the emcee of the evening: the enchanting Misty Britskaya, singer, rapper, artist, muse. Below she is posing next to “Square Diamond.” The long-awaited book was finally launched on the 75th Birthday of Uncle Godfrey at the historic Swans, owned by the University of Victoria with Victoria’s finest local art including Godfrey’s portrait of Michael Williams and the 11.5 tall Klukchitl red cedar abstract column.
10 Times Chief (Nakapinkim) Tony Hunt, wore the ceremonial blanket weaved by his grandmother in the 1800s. As a hereditary chief, Tony Hunt has only ever recognized two people as family in his big house in Fort Rupert. One is Godfrey. The two were regaled in these beautiful blankets (one of which has been photographed as the cover of a book). The Chief then spoke at length of his admiration of Godfrey’s work and the frustration we fans have with Godfrey’s refusal to deal with galleries. Chief Tony Hunt also spoke at length about how everywhere he travelled around the world, exhibiting his own art work, he got to see works of all the famous artists around the world. He kept saying to himself, “My friend Godfrey’s better than that”. We all nodded. Yep…
Robert Amos, writer and artist spoke next. Robert Amos has probably published more articles about Godfrey than anyone else. Check out his review http://www.timescolonist.com/robert-amos-two-artists-with-wildly-different-visions-1.1466058 He talked about finding more about this legendary artist when he moved to the West Coast. One of Robert’s cousins had dropped out of school in back east and made it out to the Wild West Coast in the 1960s. But guess what? Godfrey was already there. As Robert famously has written, “Godfrey never dropped out, he was already out there”.
Arran Stephens, my dad, read from the book. His lines are beautiful, starting with the phrase, “When my brother Godfrey was made, the mould, like the clamshell he climbed out of, was broken.”
My parents Ratana and Arran with Chief Tony Hunt above. Their generous support of me and this project made this book a reality. Peter Grant gave the book lavish praise, making me feel honoured and a little bashful to have been able to tie it all together with such talented, accomplished individuals.
Alex Von Kleist told a few stories about Godfrey whooshing into his life many summers ago. Alex brought us into a scene when Bill Reid once spent about half an hour looking at a small yellow cedar Abstract of Godfrey’s and explaining it to him. Masterful- as the abstract turned about its base, new images and hidden iconography were uncovered at every degree. Artist Luis Merino, whose portrait and words grace the book, said some delightful words in Spanish (does anyone know what cabron means?!).
Aija Steele is the main photographer of the book. Aija came over from Duck Creek Galley on Salt Spring Island, where she sells her photography, enhanced prints and original Godfrey Stephens. (The Square Diamond, a limited giclee reproduction in the photo with Misty is currently for sale). She is standing with film-maker Peter Campbell, of Gumboot Productions below. Thanks again to Tessa Lloyd for this photo:
We missed several important peeps. Lloyd Kahn, writer, publisher, blogger and photographer extraordinaire inspired me to make this book. Lloyd sent good wishes from California. Check out his review http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.ca/2014/10/new-book-of-godfrey-stephens-art-just.html Also sorely missed were Elsie Johnson, Sarah Chritchley, Marial Shea, Jan Westendorp, Bruce Stotesbury, photographer Doug Van Sickle, Joe Martin the master canoe carver, and artist Tilikum Redding. David Carey, who designed the beautiful cover and some book elements was there, listening to praise of his work. Below I am next to there “Swamp Pookmis” painting, getting ready to give Godfrey a book.
Eventually, I presented Godfrey with a book. He wasn’t allowed to even touch a copy of this book until his Birthday on Tuesday. It was exciting and thrilling. I’m totally relieved that it’s out and he can’t say anything about it! (He wanted me to write the book in incomprehensible haikus and fill up every inch of white space with lots of random images of his work. Of course I didn’t and didn’t want him to complain until it was too late. I’m happy that it’s too late.)
I was thrilled by this delegation of Yorkies below and we signed a book for the school library.
Mariner and musician John Van Tamelin was also there, another legend. Writer and Elephant Earth Initiative co-founder Dag Goering and film-maker Peter Campbell documented this historic event. Can’t wait to see their respective photos and film!!!! Tessa Lloyd, Owen Matthews plus Victoria City Councillor Pam Madoff were there – Godfrey had done a stunning portrait of Pam’s late partner Nick Bawlf that I wanted to put in the book. Sadly, it didn’t fit but it is masterful. I met the writer and artist Philip Willey, a cool British cat who hitchhiked with Godfrey around the world. Check out his review of the at http://exhibit-v.blogspot.ca/2014/10/godfrey-stephens-wood-storms-wild.html Former Environment Minister David and Sandra Anderson attended as did singer-songwriter Kristin Sweetland. Here she is with Misty and Godfrey behind the painting “Moss Street Nuvo.”
Below I’m giving famous artist Joe David his copy of the book. I wanted to include an early oil portrait of Joe that Godfrey did in the 70s or 80s but it didn’t photograph well enough to print in the book 😦
It would have gone perfectly with Joe’s beautiful words in Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: “Godfrey is one of my all time very favourite artists. And Godfrey is a true artist in every sense of the word and concept. He is a cultural and national treasure and unfortunately not as many people know this as should. But who are we to know the true workings of his soul, as it just might be that fame and fuss over him might spoil and alter his genius. ”
Godfrey signed dozens of books. Here is a close-up of a book for his pal Douglas Henderson. The next two photos by Tessa Lloyd:
Writer and co-founder of the Elephant-Earth Initiative Maria Coffey gave us a beautiful reading. She shared the enchanting words of missing mariner and dear friend Paul Clark. They begin as follows “Godfrey’s muse is the sea, the silver thread where the ocean folds into the embrace of land. Here every sense is engaged: light is refracted, atmosphere is ozone rich and the Voice is always beckoning.”
I want to thank my husband Pascal for everything. I have been with him through thick and thin and up and down. It is because of him and the life we have built that I am able to do all the things I do. A year ago I could barely speak. After two major surgeries and months of rehabilitation, I learned to walk, talk and write again. Pascal is the lode-stone and the rebar in our home and I am blessed and grateful. Here he is with Megan Parris and Chief Tony Hunt (photo by Tessa Lloyd).
Here is the poster for a our first ever book-signing Saturday November 1st at Munro’s Books.
Thanks to Misty for the photos of me and Godfrey, to Diya for many of the other photos in this post, and to Tessa Lloyd and Aija Steele for letting me use some of their photos. I’ve credited where possible!