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

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)

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)

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

Just Posted

This coming Thursday, Jan. 28, is Bell Let’s Talk Day, and conversations about mental health would serve many of us well as the pandemic persists. (Zackary Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection)
Editorial: Let’s talk about our mental health in a pandemic

Bell Let’s Talk Day is Thursday, Jan. 28

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for Peter Ludvigson who is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo man wanted, police say he violated terms of his release

Warrant out for 45-year-old Peter Ludvigson

Nanaimo’s Fiddelium fiddle ensemble, seen here at a fiddle workshop with visiting instructors Gordon Stobbe and J.J. Guy this summer, is recording its first album. (Photo courtesy Trish Horrocks)
Nanaimo youth fiddle ensemble Fiddelium recording first album

Fiddlers recording their parts one at a time in observance of COVID-19 safety

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man with alleged stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Emergency crews were called to a three-vehicle crash Monday morning on the old Island Highway close to Rock City Road. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Car, pickup and semi truck crash along the highway in Nanaimo

Incident happened in front of Rock City Plaza on Monday morning

Emergency crews were called to a three-vehicle crash Monday morning on the old Island Highway close to Rock City Road. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Car, pickup and semi truck crash along the highway in Nanaimo

Incident happened in front of Rock City Plaza on Monday morning

In this May 23, 2012, file photo, an approximately 2-year-old female cougar runs away from a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trap after being released northeast of Arlington, Wash. A cougar has attacked and severely mauled a man in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mark Mulligan/The Daily Herald via AP
Cougar euthanized in B.C. after severely mauling a man north of Vancouver

Whistler RCMP officers were first on the scene and shot and killed a cougar prowling nearby

Dex needs surgery after breaking his paw in the panic caused by an apartment fire. (Submitted)
Dog needs surgery after escaping burning North Island building

Fundraiser started for veterinarian costs after Dex breaks paw dropping from upper floor apartment

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Most Read