Saturday, December 18, 2010

"And most days I don't think about the ax."

Catherine Doss Senungetuk's retrospective exhibit opened with a reception at 5pm yesterday (Friday) at Out North.  Lots of people came.

The walls were covered in Catherine's colors.   Most of the words below are Catherine's own from the exhibition brochure.

1971-1974 . . .Without having known it when I started at L & C [Lewis and Clark], Portland was one of the two cities in the US (New York being the other) where the revival of calligraphy was in full swing, thanks in large part to Lloyd Reynolds, who taught at Reed College across the river.  My teacher was Norman Paasche, a kind gentleman who suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and walked with a cane, but this didn't dampen his love of letters and books.

Through him I was introduced to handmade books as well as small press books, such as those by Walter Hanady.  For me, it was like falling into a letter honey pot.  All my life I had been fascinated by peoples' handwriting, and here was a chance to actually study and practice lettering through the history of letter-forms, as well as the art of the book.

1979 My brother called and invited me to meet him in Paris, France. . . While in Paris I worked at Atelier Lacouriere, a printmaking studio.  Misch Kohn had given me the owner's name and encouraged me to go and introduce myself.  Misch had given me the location - "Down about a hundred steps from the Sacre Coeur" - but it was still quite hard to find.  The owner, Jacques Frelaut, opened the door when I knocked, he had just gotten back from England working with Marc Chagall, and the master printers in the basement were working on editioning Chagall's plates.  Monsieur Frelaut invited me to work there, told me where to go to get copper (which was in the Paris slaughterhouse district), plus for myself I had to go to Charbonnel for inks.  I did four copper etchings, which I've never editioned.

1987 Joe and I married.

1991 Visited Karlgeorg and Maria Hoefer in Offenbach, a suburb of Frankfurt.  Karlgeorg showed me stacks and stacks of his work - daily alphabets, writing, type design, more lettering.  It was breathtaking.  Maria was a fiber artist and her pieces also hung in their living room.  The next day we went together to the Klingspor Museum, a museum dedicated totally to the book and letter arts.  

2006 In October, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer which had gone to my lungs and bones, a shocking and severe diagnoses. As I would find out, it becomes an almost daily question, how to make sense of, and integrate, an illness into ones life, one which cannot be cured according to current medicine.

2010 Had to take a medical retirement from school nursing. Had major back surgery and chemo. Since I was young, I've always had the feeling that life is short, that every day is important. Now, living with an ax over my head, I see it really is. And most days I don't think about the ax.

The ax fell about 4am today.

On the back page of the brochure, after thanking the people involved in the exhibit,  Catherine wrote:

And not least, many many thanks to all our friends and family who pray for me, for us, and keep me in their thoughts for healing.  I believe Spirit is what keeps me alive.  I have also had wonderful doctors, caregivers, therapists and counselors.  Thanks to each of you, I thank my Creator for gracing me with a few more days, weeks, months on this most beautiful earth, and my steadfast husband, who has firsthand experience with "in sickness and in health."  Without him and without God, I would not be.

Previous post on this retrospective. 

UPDATE Jan. 1, 2011:  A Celebration of Catherine’s Life will be held in Anchorage at the Alaska Native Lutheran Church at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, January 14, 2011.  A reception will follow at the Out North Contemporary Art House.  In lieu of flowers, please offer a donation in Catherine’s memory to a charity of your choice.

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