The Man in the Middle

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I am in love with this painting. It’s  called “Rockfall”, and it’s from a collection by Whitehorse artist Neil Graham named “Shaping Haida Gwaii”. It’s in large part because of this body of work that I travelled to Haida Gwaii this past summer.

For the last year or more, this painting has hung in my diningroom. The spirits in the rocks speak to me, some beckoning me to come play with them, others showing much more reserve, not at all sure they can trust me with their secrets.

My grandson Caleb is also drawn to the painting. He stayed with my husband and I for two weeks in January, and every day as we ate breakfast and dinner Caleb studied the painting, wanting to know about who he called the man in the middle. Who was he? Why was he sleeping on the rocks? Did he have a home? Did he like sleeping in the woods?

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I think the man in the middle (see the centre of this detail for the head that’s resting on its left side) looks like Neil, so I made up a great many stories about him. He loves to ride motorcycles (this much I know to be true). When he’s not sleeping on the rocks he enjoys travelling to France (again, true). He loves hanging out with the bear spirits. In some of the more dramatic stories Neil is swallowed by sharks and must be rescued by Caleb.

We’ll be taking a bit of a hiatus from those stories though. Neil has an exhibit planned starting next month at the Haida Gwaii Museum in Skidegate and “Rockfall” is one of the pieces in the show. It is of course wonderful for Neil and for the people on the island who will get to see his work, but our dinner conversations won’t be nearly so interesting until the painting finds its way back to me in a few months.

If you are in the Skidegate area, be sure to take in the exhibit. And if you do go, look for the man in the middle.Tell him I say hi.

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