Celebration Connection

Celebration 2012 just finished in Juneau this past weekend. It was full of pride, color and fun. But for me it was many times more meaningful this year due to some amazing serendipity and good karma.

My painting “Celebration Drums” was first shown in March at the Canvas, and then again at the Franklin Gallery in June for Celebration. Here is the painting:

Celebration-Drummers-30-x-30 acrylic

On Friday afternoon, the day of the Grand Entrance March, I got a phone call from someone who was interested in the painting. I called him back, and found out that Duane Aucoin, from Teslin had seen the painting. The women in the painting are his aunt Madeline, on the left, and his mother. He was last in Juneau for Celebration 2010, and last year his mother had passed away, and the thought of coming back to Juneau this year without her was hard. He did come, all the way from Teslin, Yukon Territory, Cananda with his fellow dancers. He heard from someone that he should take a look at the painting and he called me. He felt that he was meant to come back to Juneau.

I try to honor the spirit and beauty of people when I paint them. They may not be people I know, but when you spend hours and hours of your time looking at a face, trying to “get” that face, and produce some version of it in paint, you develop a relationship of some kind. As an artist, those people are special to you. They represent human qualities that are meaningful to me. Imagine meeting someone related to a person you have painted and finding out that your painting was able to help remember and honor the life and inspiration of that person.

I was able to meet Duane and some of the Teslin dancers on Sunday, before they danced. While I was talking with them, someone brought a wolf hat over to him. It was instantly recognizable to me, as I had painted a dancer from Celebration 2010 as well. It was Duane! AND I had the painting with me! I was going to put it up in the Franklin Street Gallery to fill the empty space left by Celebration Drummmers, but I had forgotten to put a hanging wire on the back, so I had it in my bag to take back to my studio. I HAD to give it to Duane right then and there. It is a favorite of mine, I like the simplicity of the figure in the space and I LOVE that I could give it to the real dancer.

Wolf-Dancer-5-x-7-acrylic

But wait, there is more! Duane asked me to be at their dance performance because he wanted to say something about the painting. While I was in the audience (with Duane’s entrance bracelet – since they had stopped selling any more entrance tickets) I was struck by the sight and emotions of Centennial Hall filled with the people of this place. The First Nations people, the decendants of those who first settled and claimed this beautiful part of the world. The language, dance, movements, history of survival and development of complex cultures and social structures. Still here in 2012.

Anyway, after a while, the Teslin dancers came on to the stage and Cash Creek Charlie and Gramma Susie gave the best stand-up comedy act I’ve heard. Incredible. Then Duane told about his mom and the painting, and asked me to come up to the stage. I was honored and touched to be included, and felt humbled and shy to be part of a memorial to a strong and vital woman.

I lost my mother at the end of April, and it has been and still is very hard to grasp that loss. It helps in some way to share that feeling of loss with others, and to know that other sons and daughters are going through this process.

Thank you to Duane for calling me and to the people of the Teslin dancers, it was an honor to meet you and be included in your tribute. Gunalchéesh.

3 Responses to Celebration Connection

  1. Mary Ellen Frank says:

    that was the coolest most touching thing BC… I called Jerry on my cell from the audience as he was watching at home and we were were both just really glad it was you who made such an impact and got to share in a great culture… I’m pretty sure I’m Teslin bound next year… thinking about it? been there once for the celebration and it was much different and very very wonderful…

  2. Wow, Barbara. That’s an amazing story. Thanks for sharing it. – susi

  3. Duane Gastant' Aucoin says:

    Aatlein gunalcheesh ax xonee! thank you very much my friend once again for your gift to me & mom’s family!
    she was such an amazing person & it is so hard without her. but your painting reminded us that they never leave us & to honour their memory by living life as they lived it.
    i know your mother is still with you & proud of you!
    hope to see you in teslin next year for our inland tlingit celebration! 🙂
    eegooiyax’wan,
    Duane Gastant’ Aucoin
    ps. here’s the story i posted on facebook about finding this painting;
    this morning my cousin tony told my aunt madeleine & i that we really needed to see something here in juneau. so, we eventually made it over to a hotel gallery & right there infront of us was a huge painting of my MOTHER & aunty!!!! it was from 2010 when we came here for the last Celebration. i was speechless as we had no idea that this painting even existed! so i got the contact info of the artist & contacted her, Barb Craver, & told her the story about who her painting was about. she started crying cause her mom just passed away a month ago & she was so moved by my story. she said there was something about mom & aunty that just stood out & she had to paint them! she is selling me this painting at a discount cause there is no way i can’t buy it. it was meant to be! i was feeling blue this being my 1st Celebration without mummy. till i saw this pic & knew it was her telling me…i’m still here with you son. i’m still singing & drumming…so should you! gunalcheesh atlee! love & miss you lots mummy!!! 🙂

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