Tag Archives: Godfrey Stephens

Wood Storms, Wild Canvas Wins Gold!

Awards can be a wonderful thing. I was given a medal a couple of years ago for being a living organ donor. The medal sits in a custom wooden box on a shelf, under a 1970s wooden carved bust Godfrey gave me to when I was a teenager. The award is but a symbol. The actually blood and guts sacrifice is impossible to imagine when you see the medal. However it is a nice thing to look at every so often. It’s golden-coloured and shiny. It has a dogwood flower engraved on it (BC’s provincial tree). This bitty piece of metal is a symbol of that particular struggle and the triumph of life.

At my friend Elsie’s suggestion late in 2014, I sent a copy of my first book “Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens” to the IPPY Awards: The 19th Annual Independent Book Awards 2015.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  Then I remembered about it a few weeks ago. So, I went to the website. Didn’t see my book listed as a winner in the art category. So I forgot about it again.

Then yesterday, I got a big envelope in the mail.  I had no idea what was in it.  Just opened it up.  A chunky round metallic golden thing fell out of the envelope and almost broke my toe!

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Ouch!

My brow furrowed, I picked it up and was wondering who was trying to sell me what.  I get free pens, address stickers and books in the mail routinely.  Well….It turns out that my first published book won a Gold Medal for Best Regional Non-Fiction!  Over 5700 entries for the IPPY awards were submitted.  I was smiling.  (I should have checked the Regional Awards section!)

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This award is particularly lovely because it’s truly independent recognition – after years of planning and months of furious work with a free-spirited, loving, wonderful y muy complicado artist who is my father’s older brother. It is also a testament to all the people who contributed words, photos and stories… from my father to Lloyd Kahn to Robert Amos.  Peter Grant to Joe David to Aija Steele. Truly, many a time I worried that I might spend forever writing this book. There was so much I didn’t know about Godfrey and had to learn and pronto. I didn’t even realize that he was a ‘real’ oil on canvas painter until a few years ago! I thought he only painted watercolors and boats. How wrong I was!  His large murals go back to the 1960s. I had to learn the difference between a print and an original.  I had to learn how to use a camera. I ended up with a PhD in Godfrey. Over a few years, I sorted through thousands of photos letters and emails and needed Godfrey’s advice and blessing to incorporate the best of  them into the book. Of course (?!) I love Godfrey to bits but to say that the process was challenging is a bit of an understatement.

Here’s an anecdote that illustrates the process.

me: Godfrey can you please tell me about this boat?

Godfrey: It’s not a significant boat.  I sailed it a couple times and then gave it away.

Me: (writing this down: not a significant boat).  But I’d like to use it, it’s a beautiful picture of the boat on seaweed.  Please Godfrey!  Focus por favor.  What is it called? Where is it now?  When was it made?

Godfrey: Gah, it’s a modified Rushton Sailing Canoe wth a junk main.  I called it S/V Lil Till.  Now woah!  Hey! Look at this picture of my friend from Jamaica in 1964.  No – – OH! Look at this one!  

(30 minutes later)

Me: Godfrey can I just review with you some of these pictures before I leave?

Godfrey: Wait!  Just look at this picture now!

Me: Godfrey please focus with me.  

Godfrey: yeah, but listen to this groovy tune. This takes me back to Paris where I lived on the Seine in a houseboat owned by Picasso’s dentist. 

Me: Really?  Wow.  (looking at my watch and putting the photo of the boat in front of his nose).  Okay Uncle G, I have to go, I wrote that this is S/V Lil Til, a Rushton sailing canoe.  Also it’s not a significant boat.

Godfrey: WHAT!!!???  WHY ARE YOU SAYING THAT’S NOT A SIGNIFICANT BOAT!?  Gurdeep, it has travelled all over the world, on the Nile and in all the oceans of the world.  You can’t say that it’s not significant!

Me: (sheepish, incredulous and mildly indignant) I’m just reading back what you said a few minutes ago.

Godfrey: You have to get your facts straight.

FYI Here is the a photo of the page (and photo of that boat) that eventually made it into the book on page 114:photo (3) copy

Repeat this process for each image and word that went into the book.  The Storms in the title could very well refer not only to the art but the process of creating this book. We argued (in mostly a friendly way) ad nauseum. Poor Godfrey, neither of us had ever published a book before and we didn’t know really what we were doing.  The worst were low-res photos that would print small but looked good on screen. Godfrey couldn’t understand why… We also argued over text. Godfrey wanted me to not have any explanations about the art. He wanted to include his friends and their art. And write the whole book in Haiku’s. Or better yet, without any words whatsoever. “Make people really work to understand it,” was his idea. I like the idea of an experimental book but I wanted a more classic coffee table book. Godfrey is hard enough to understand to begin with. And his art! His art is multiple layers upon multi-dimensional layers of meanings and quadruple entrendres. Flipping through the book Godfrey wanted would be like going through his photos with him.  Interesting, entertaining and good until you had to go, leaving you a little befuddled if not entirely convoluted.

I won’t get into the time I was at the studio trying to get information on photos and Godfrey decided to modify a friend’s print with some red vino….

I started the book after I recovered from being an organ donor. Wanting to preserve highlights of Godfrey’s extraordinary life and ouevre before it became ‘too late,’ il libro became a top priority hobby for me. After making 7 blurb books (which Godfrey ripped apart page by page and rightly so), I decided to hire a graphic designer to speed up the process and have someone else to collaborate with. And hopefully team up with me to counter some of the more dada-esque ideas from Godfrey.

I started to work full-steam on this book after recovering sufficiently from rehab to write, talk and walk properly again. I thought it would be a gentle slide back into function. But instead of a soft landing, it was a hair-tearing few months. Fortunately, I met Marial Shea, an amazing editor who was able to be the literary sounding board I needed. She was the book’s big stroke of luck.

However, in the process of making the book, I found out that a graphic designer isn’t quite the same thing as a full-time book designer. I learned this to my chagrin (the hard way) the very week that the book was due at the printers. I thought the book looked great. I had pretty much sat next to the designer for every page, a lot of which was based on my own blurb book trials.  The cover needed to be redone.  Massive props to excellent graphic designer Dave Carey .

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Through this process of making an art book, I learned that it is mostly about the pictures. From my iphone to fancy cameras, if the photo isn’t fabulous, it renders the work (however impressive) dull. So much gratitude to the twenty-something photographers who contributed photos. Especial thanks to my cousin Aija Steele for her photography. (You can see her work at the Duck Creek Gallery on Salt Spring Island).

Even fixing up the low-res photos, Marial had issues with the book. She said to me that the average person probably wouldn’t notice the kinds of things she was concerned about from a book-design perspective.  I didn’t really know what she was talking about. But she convinced me  to scramble last minute to find a dedicated specialty book designer to complete the book. Marial explained that ‘book-people’ would really note the details. I asked my sister and mom their opinion and they both said, “Delay if you must but make the best book you possibly can’. Wise counsel. No wonder they are so successful in business.  It’s all about a quality product. A dedicated book designer is a person who has been perpetually smitten with a blessed evergreen love-affair with books. The fonts, the colors, the alignment. Where typesetting is top priority. Where consistency gives shivers up and down spines (pun intended!).

Book designer and photographer Jan Westendorp was on a first-name basis with Godfrey’s “Woodstorm” carving and was delighted to help make the book beautiful on a tight turn-around time for the ‘Book-intellgensia.” So, I got an extension from the printers (which wouldn’t delay the launch significantly). Jan is a marvellous creature. “I’m all about the project,” she said repeatedly doing what she called ‘a substantial renovation’ on the book.  True to her words, All-About-The-Project-Jan worked day and night to meet the deadline, redesigned every spread, changed all the fonts and even re-did some of the sailing pages multiple times.

It had to be. Right.

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Wood Storms, Wild Canvas is an art book, a coffee table book, a history of a uniquely talented artist. It was and is a labour of love. It was made with FSC certified paper. It was printed in Canada and made with eco friendly inks. It was not a cheap book to make. I am proud of this book. I am also delighted to inform that for the first 1000 books printed, 1000 trees were planted in BC. Beauty and industry must come full-circle and interweave cherished values.

Many people have told me how important the book is to them.  Long time friends and admirers of Godfrey’s work finally can make some sense of the artist known as Goofi. To have all his various genres in one place in full color with explanations to contextualize it – Ah how wonderful! To have a sense of the breadth and scope of his output. To read his own grammatically-creative and poetic musings. To hear from respected artists and writers about Godfrey.  To be just gob-smacked by the visual poetry.

It was a stormy ride but the proof is in the pages!  That Gold Medal validates all that hard work with uncertain outcome; it means more than the IPPY Book Awards could probably imagine.

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The book is available on amazon and at selected independent bookstores.  For more information, please go to woodstormswildcanvas.com.  To follow the art, please go to  Facebook or Instagram.  To buy Godfrey’s art, please contact Godfrey through his site http://godfreystephens.com/godfreysart/Welcome/Welcome.html .  You can also try Aija Steele’s Duck Creek Gallery http://www.duckcreekgallery.com/Welcome.html

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This is a sort of post-script written 2 days after this first post.  I was so excited about the award that I didn’t even look it up until just now.  According to wiki “The Independent Publisher Book Award is considered one of the highest honors[3] for books published by independent publishers.” Here’s a slightly fuzzy selfie (it’s hard to keep the camera still, I wonder how the zillions of self-takers manage to get good photos?!) wearing the medal with Godfrey’s “Endangered Species” in the background:photo

Book Launch of Wood Storms, Wild Canvas

“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.

Misty to crop

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…

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unnamed(photos of Chief Tony Hunt and Godfrey by Aija Steele)

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”.

DSC_0498(from left Chief Tony Hunt, Robert Amos, Godfrey, Luis Merino)

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.”

unnamed-4above left: Chief Tony Hunt, Godfrey and Arran

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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.

Gof alex arran megan aijaAbove: Arran, Godfrey, Alex Von Kleist, Megan Parris and Aija Steele.

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?!).

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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:

Tessa photo Peter and Aija

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.

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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.)

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Here is my dear friend Megan Parris, Godfrey’s wife.

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I was thrilled by this delegation of Yorkies below and we signed a book for the school library.

Yorkies legs

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.”

Kirsten and misty

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 😦

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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:

Tessa photo Douglas Henerson Tessa photo Henderson

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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.”

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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).

Tessa photo Pascal Chief Megan

Here is the poster for a our first ever book-signing Saturday November 1st at Munro’s Books.

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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!

Letter from the Deepster

Dear DeeperSide readers,

I’ve been in a period of incubation, hatching ideas, regaining old strengths and acquiring new skills.  There is so much I want to share with you about this journey of growth and transformation.  For much of it, I don’t yet have the words.  I’m currently working on two book projects.  The first is a book of Art of my dear Uncle Godfrey.  Inshallah, we should be launching end of this month. If you are a facebooker, check out “Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens”.  I’ll announce the second book early in the new year 2015.  Below is a photo by Devin Card of me and Godfrey’s large abstract cedar sculpture titled ‘Klukchitl’ meaning when Spring starts.

 

Gurdeep Klukchitl

I was really moved, when after a long period, I went to this blogsite and saw that despite an absence of new posts, several people visit this blog everyday from many countries around the world. I was recently in the Midwest where I met some old friends, one of whom told me that they were inspired to change by this blog.  I was beyond touched that some of my words had resonated.  I started thedeeperside blog in order to submit a voice of inspiration, common sense and real news to anyone who wanted to read.  Thank you so much for listening.  It’s a small endeavour in the scheme of things but  the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I thank you for walking this journey with me.

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Above and below are photos I took at the Morton Arboretum, a beautiful 1700 acre oasis of ecology, including a restored prairie, thousands of tree species, a fun tree maze etc and so on.  The prairie delighted me the most, as I always wondered what a *real* American prairie looked and felt like.  The answer: glorious.

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I look forward to taking up the torch again soon.  In the meantime, I wanted to share some bits of news for those of you unaware of what’s going on.  There currently are two motions to label GMOs in the US, one in Oregon, the other in Colorado. Vermont passed a no-strings attached labelling bill but are now being hit with a lawsuit from big food and the chemical companies. Common sense is behind these consumer-driven motions to label GMOs.  Like in Washington and California, the same monster companies are dumping in millions of dollars to flood the airways and confuse voters.  These exact same companies label in 64 countries, they reformulate products.  Even in the UK, MacDonalds serves children organic milk!

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A friend wrote to me today on facebook saying “Why aren’t more people boycotting [the-company-which-must-not-be-named]”.   It’s hard for consumers to know where to turn.  Most of the big food companies are funnelling millions to defeat the right to know via the Grocery Manufacturers Association.  But to *really* complicate things, most of the big companies also own most of the ‘little’ organic companies!  So these organic brands are not able to stand up to their big daddy’s and demand labelling. With a handful of crucial exceptions, the original organic, independent, and commonsensical voice has been bought out by big business. Enlightened shoppers wish to support organic and can end up supporting the big companies who are fighting with nuclear-weapon-sized wallets to smother the voice of the people.  

Hypocritical?  Complicated?  The answer is so simple, the solution is so obvious.  We must have the right to know what’s been done to our food, what toxins are sprayed on it and what toxic genes are in it.  If N. American governments are not following the precautionary principle, allowing GMOs without independent, long-term studies, at least give citizens the choice of whether or not to eat them!  The answer is so resoundingly clear that other citizens around the world scratch their heads, wondering what has gone so wrong in N. America.

If you wish to vote with your voice, speak up, ‘like’ and ‘share’ those inconveniently disturbing posts, celebrate every victory, no matter how small. Follow Food Babe, Robyn O’Brien, etc etc. My answer to people who wish to vote with their dollars is two fold 1) Keep supporting organic brands as this sends the biggest signal to the marketplace, which is really what will motivate huge change, 2) where you have a choice, support an independent organic brand, and 3) Best still, buy as many real foods as you can and support your local organic farmers.

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Things are changing so rapidly for the better.  More and more farms are going non-GMO and organic.  Mexico has puts up bans on GMO Soy and Corn. All this is beyond fantastic, a trend not a fad. Let’s raise our hands high in the air, wave our arms about, bring in the good energy and send love and support to everyone who is doing the right thing for people and planet. Yay to our organic farmers, replenishing the soil, purifying the air and the waters.  Transported to a greener reality, I see our waters running clear and clean, I see our air pure and crystalline.  I smell the forest and grasslands rustling with life.  I taste the goodness Mother Earth has to offer.

With love to you all,

Gurdeep

Me and the Avatar Dude

“Toruk Macto, I will fly with you”

– Avatar movie by James Cameron

me and avatar

I got to pose with the Avatar Dude (aka Lekshumy McLagan) and Katreena Weileby.  Uncle Godfrey snapped this photo of us.  The amazing Avatar look-alike made me feel about 3 feet tall!  He’s a vegan chef and was handing out cards for http://ingredientshealthfood.com  A lady next to me said, “I want my husband to eat whatever he’s been eating!”  Thank you Toruk Macto  -I mean –  Lekshumy for spreading a message of hope and positivity!

Weeping Cedar Woman – Protest Piece

“To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men.”

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

My Uncle Godfrey carved this huge sculpture, called Kle Pil Kanimskit, or Weeping Cedar Woman around 1984 in Tofino. Her breasts are frogs and her tears spill in columns to the ground. One hand is raised in the universal gesture Stop. The other hand points down at the ground. Stop the destruction of the Earth she silently pleads, admonishes, reminds. The Weeping Cedar Woman stood in Tofino’s bay where a historic protest of thousands rallied to prevent the logging of Meares Island where some of BC’s oldest trees stand.

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I posted a photo of this sculpture today in honour of the World’s first coordinated protest against GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), also known as the March Against Monsanto.

The deeperside blog aims to exemplify companies and systems and people doing the right thing. Standing up for our right to know what is in our food is not *just* the right thing to do…

It’s downright exemplary!

Uncle Godfrey’s Guernica

I wish everybody gets into the flow and lets their crazy out, like my Uncle Godfrey in this video.

Godfrey Stephens and his art are subjects worth several novels, art books, documentaries, exhibitions, videos, therapy sessions and blogs.  With all those pent-up words, I am paradoxically unsure of how to begin to describe him to you.  I think I wont try just now.   Uncle G has been an inspiration to me through his art- his paintings and sculpture speak volumes, whispering conundrums yelling outrages, and undulating beauty.  In an earlier post I mentioned having written a few unpublished books.   My most recent work-in-progress is a coffee table book about Godfrey’s art titled “Wood Storms and Raging Canvass”.

Keeping with the theme of this blog of inspiring change, Godfrey became a pacifist in his youth.  In recent years, he smashed and arc-welded hundreds of guns and swords into this amazing sculpture pictured below.  A work in progress, this huge piece changes radically every few months.  It is a peaceful protest piece, Godfrey’s equivalent to Picasso’s Guernica.  It wears several titles including “Nunka Mas”, “Never More War” and “The Anti-War Hole.”

 

May 2012 photo

 

This is how the sculpture looked like about a year ago. From a distance, you can make out the “Sisutil” or Sea Serpent in Chinook West Talk. Hidden on the other side, spiralling in a double helix is an ancient Greek dolphin.

Garth Woodworth

Photo of bent and smashed chains, guns, swords. Photo by Garth Woodworth

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Close up of Nunka Mas, sprinkled with dew. Photo by Garth Woodworth

I remember that the original title of this piece was “Turning Swords into Ploughshares”.  May we turn weapons into art.  May those factories where bombs were built and now pesticides are produced be turned back into fallow fields, sown with organic nitrogen-fixing alfalfa, teeming with insects and birds.

Let’s transform.

Let us see infinitely peaceful possibilities.