Design done by Gus Modeste for his village of Penelakut. (Photo submitted)

Death of famed Island artist Modeste mourned

World famous carving talents began under the guidance of high school teacher

Condolences have been pouring in for family members and friends following the death last Thursday of famed Penelakut Coast Salish artist Gus Modeste. He was 44.

Modeste had been living in Duncan in recent years to be close to doctors and the hospital while dealing with diabetes, heart problems and other health issues.

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

Modeste grew up on Galiano Island and spent a few years in Nanaimo before going to live with his dad on Penelakut and attended Chemainus Secondary School where he honed his craft as a carver.

“He got a lot of encouragement from Walter Stoochnoff, a teacher there,” said Modeste’s aunt Connie Crocker. “That’s where his life of carving began.”

Modeste also drew inspiration from carver Francis Horne. A totem Modeste did stands as a legacy at the entrance to the high school.

Along with Doug August of Cowichan, Modeste did carvings for the site marker and nose of the aircraft that was sunk off Chemainus 14 years ago on January 14, 2006 to become a diving reef.

His carvings and prints can be found 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.

“He had such a natural talent for drawing and carving,” said Crocker. “It just really developed and it seemed to happen so easily. He was just so talented.

“I think about him personally, I never had a boring conversation with him,” she added. “He was always very interesting to talk to. He had pertinent things to talk about and he was also very funny.”

Comments poured in on social media as news of Modeste’s death spread.

“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 from his studio and proceeds of any sales will go to his family.

“He had a collection of work that he had been preparing,” noted Crocker.

“His work is a gift to the world,” added Kathy Wachs of the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society. “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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

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

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

Just Posted

Three rescued after canoe capsizes near Oak Bay

Private vessel finds canoe, brings people ashore

Greater Victoria charities organize physically distanced tent, sleeping bag drive

Neighbourhood Response Team accepts sleeping bags, mats and tents Saturday in Victoria

UPDATED: Crash snarls early morning Malahat traffic

Incident backed up commuters near Okotoks Drive

Frontline volunteers bring handwashing stations to Pandora tent city and beyond

‘The basic premise of this is to fight COVID-19 … right?’

West Shore podcast highlights COVID-19 pandemic and local businesses

Westshore Business podcast to look at how businesses handle COVID-19

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

Controversial Cowichan tiny house still in place after removal deadline

Cowichan Valley Regional District had ordered it removed by March 15

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

No April Fool’s jokes from Black Press Media

Only factual stories to be printed, despite day calling for hilarity

High cost, limited coverage for asthma medicine a concern during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man says he skips puffs to save money, but others have it worse

Vancouver Island’s ‘Project Draw Breath’ expands and diversifies to battle pandemic

Grassroots team working to up supplies of ventilators, other equipment during COVID-19 crisis

Trudeau says Parliament needs to sit to pass expanded COVID-19 benefits

Wage subsidy program has been greatly expanded since it was first approved

Most Read