Thursday, December 6, 2007

Honoring a Friend

My friend has just lost his father and his mentor, both inside of a week or so. I know he hurts with the pain we all feel when a great loss empties our heart. He is strong and he understand more about the world than I ever will so I know he will be OK, but I want to honor him today by posting these pictures and a few words about him and how our lives intersect.

This is a picture of my friend Blair Debassige from Manitoulin Island, M'Chigeen, Ontario, Canada. He is a great artist.
I am honored to own the picture he is standing next to. It is called "Sacred Journey," but my family and I call it "Family Portrait" since it depicts us in each of our places.

I first met Blair around 15 years ago. I was wanderiing around Manitoulin Island checking out side roads and such and stumbled into his gallery. I was entranced with the wild images I saw and didn't think that anything could be better than living in this wonderous woodland place and being an artist with your own gallery perched above the waters of Lake Huron. We talked about one of his larger pieces that was literally out of this world. I couldn't afford it or any of his art at the time, but he sold me a poster size copy of it, signed it and I went along my way. I thought of that place a lot as I had the poster framed and hung it in my living room, but I never got back to visit his gallery for almost another ten years.

This is Blair and his mentor the great father/founder of the woodland school of art, Norval Morriseau. Mr. Morriseau was famous in Canada where artists are revered and appreciated.

Norval Morrisseau

A few years ago I purposefully went up to M'Chigeen when I was on Manitoulin to see if Blair Debassige still had his studio/gallery and was still doing art. I was also hoping to buy a nice piece of art for my new house. I walked into his gallery and there was a woman working there. I asked if Blair was around and she said, "yes, he's up at the house." I said, "oh, I wanted to talk to him." and she told me to go on up to the house and ring the doorbell, that he wouldn't mind. I'm not sure if he minded at the time or not, but I did ring his doorbell and we ended up becoming good friends.
Talking to Blair about his art is like being drawn into a world of great depth and dimension. It's a world that swirls you around and leaves me happy and at peace. . . usually. And that's the way I feel when I'm hanging out with Blair whether we're out getting something to eat, sitting on his porch watching the incredible sunsets across the bay and especially when I have the great opportunity and honor of watching him paint. It's always a journey that leaves me feeling happy and at peace. I laugh a lot around Blair. He's a funny guy who is acutely aware of the world around him. I get sick of all the dumbassed fucks out there who are unaware of everything around them.

I feel like I know Blair. I know something of his defects and his strengths, his insecurities and his powers. He doesn't give those things up easily and neither do I, but I think we have shared those things.

So Blair, I hope that these words find you with some level of comfort today. You've enriched my life and I'm honored to be your friend.

I'm so sorry about your father's passing and Norval's passing. We all have our time.

I look forward to seeing you next spring. . . cooking Mexican food, grabbing one of those great burgers and fries at the bowling alley, checking out your new stuff and just being back on the island. Damn I miss that place.


Blonde Goddess said...

Your friend is a gifted artist. His painting "Sacred Journey" is incredible.

I think it is wonderful for you to honor him and his family this way.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Goddess, He's a frickin artistic genius.

Simply Curious said...

You're such a good friend.

Buzzardbilly said...

I love both the art and the post.

My best regards to Blair in facing two such close losses of people who must be inextricably bound with his art and his life. We always carry those we love with us.

TED VELVET said...

nice post. good art, good friends, good pork, good booze. that's what life is all about.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Amen to all that. Nothing like good friends. Good pork comes a close second. . . now let me tell you how I do it up on the island Teddy.

I build a smoker right on the shore line out of the big flat rocks that are lying all over the place.
I build a pit that's about two feet around and about 10" -1' high with an oepning on one end. Then I put a big flat rock over half of it. I then continue building the sides up and inward till it's another 10" -1' higher and the opening on top is less than a foot around. I build a wood fire in the lower part using the opening on the end which I can cover with another big flat rock. I then put the meat on the upper flat rock and cover the hole with another big flat rock.
Oh yea, I cover the meat rock with fresh cedar planks soaked in the lake for an hour or so.

For meat, I get fresh lake trout and salmon caught the same morning. I also go down the road to an organic farm that sells fresh pork.

I spend most of my time eating when I'm on vacation and being on Manitoulin is no exception.

Anonymous said...

man, that sounds fucking good. my brother is a good cook. i don't feel like digging up my lawn for pits and shit but we'll slow cook ribs for 5 6 hours on low charcoal/wood heat in a weber kettle till they slide off the bone like a toupee off a dead guy. pork is magical. ever watch anthiny bourdain? he blows a load everytime he eats good pork.

TED VELVET said...

I don't know why my shit pops up gerald but I've been having problems with my blogger. it is my middle name but still I don't remember telling blogger that.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

anthony bourdain? You mean that punkish snotty rich kid from NY who always has that snide fucking look of distain on his face?

Yea, I watch him sometimes. I've got cook and foodie friends who worship him. Like most celebrity chefs. . . well, chefs in general, I find him a bit pretentious and REALLY full of himself. I've read his book. I don't understand the fascination.
I love the places he goes and I'd love to eat and do the things he does. Same with that guy who host the show about bazaar foods.

You guys in CONnecticut spend a lot of money on those green chemically enhanced/grown lawns. I guess I wouldn't dig 'em up for something so boring and mundane as smoker rubbed pork either (he said with a punkish snide sarcastic look of distain on his face).
Fuckin brightlighters got their priorities ALL wrong.

Colonel Colonel said...

That's great art. If you're ever in New England come on up and dig a pit in our yard, you and TedV and some beer would make a great BBQ day.

Ann said...

What a great tribute, and his art is beautiful. Sounds like a great friend.

Rebecca Burch said...

Wow! I love that artwork! And your friend just has this neat glimmer in his eye. He must be an amazingly cool person!

So sorry to hear about his loss, though. I'm kind of going through a loss, myself, and a close friend made the neatest comment the other day. She quoted someone, I don't know who, and said something like "we keep the ones we love alive by keeping them in our hearts." I forget... but it made so much sense. They become part of us because we love them, but when they're gone, that part that is in us remains.

I dunno. It was much cooler when she said it. But you get it...

spiritisland said...

Surfing the web I discovered your blog site. The photo of Blair and Norval posted on your site was filmed in June 2004 by me. Blair stayed at our residence gallery while attending the Kinsman Robinson Norval Morrisseau retrospective.Indeed Blair and I shared many happy and sad times together. I am truly sorry to be informed that a great man Gus Debassige has passed on. Gus was a dynamic man that believed in family first.I have lost touch with Blair over the last 3 years however think of him often. Blair is a very talented man that understands the science of colour that was taught to him by both Norval and another mentor in his early stages of experimental art.I continue to operate a private Woodlands Native Gallery and include a # of Blair Debassige paintings that are included in our private collection. We produced a film documentary on Blair however it was not released for public viewing.Norval stated to Blair that he was the closest artist to depicts the Anishnabec legends. I personally viewed one of Blairs paintings in the residence of Norval - Nanaimo Seniors Home September 2005.I spent one week with Norval and the mention of Blair brought a smile to his sad face. You have honoured Blair with your site. Regards, Spiritisland

SagaciousHillbilly said...

I just saw your post.
You know Blair well.
I'm very glad to read your words.