At long last a book documenting the art of Godfrey Stephens has been published, and it’s stunning. Godfrey has been painting, drawing, carving, and assembling all his life (he’s now 70), and his niece Gurdeep Stephens has performed a Herculean task of sifting through a blizzard of Godfrey’s art to assemble this collection. Oh yes, he’s also built over a dozen sailboats.
I’m hardly an objective observer: I’ve known Godfrey and his art since meeting him on a Mexican beach in 1964, and he’s a dear friend. I’ve never been able to figure out why he isn’t world-famous. The quantity and quality of his output is staggering. And his energy: there are almost 800 emails in my “Stephens” mailbox, over 600 photos in my “Stephens” photo folder. How Gurdeep ever prevailed to assemble this excellent collection is beyond me. High five!
It’s best to let his art speak for itself, but I’ll just point out something about his carving: when he was 12, he hung out around Mungo Martin, a famed Kwakwaka’wakw chief who was creating totems and building a “big house”, at Thunderbird Park in Victoria. Godfrey’s best friend, Tony Hunt was Mungo’s grandson, and Godfrey and Tony started out carving little bears to sell. Godfrey has always been close to the native “First Nations” culture, with many Indian friends, and it shows in his carving. It seems to me a blend of the powerful north coast indigenous art and wide-ranging abstract and representational artistry. Godfrey doesn’t drive and he’s never had a “job.” Just art.
Wood Storms, Wild Canvas: The Art of Godfrey Stephens will have a first book-signing at Munro’s Books in Victoria, BC, on November 1st at 1 pm. Both Godfrey Stephens and the author Gurdeep Stephens will be signing copies at Munro’s between 1-2 pm on Saturday November 1st. The book will be available for sale at local independent book sellers in addition to online. For each copy sold, the publisher will plant one Native tree species locally in BC.