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Bern Will Brown (1920 - 2014)
Hare Mother and Child -- oil on masonite 24 x 17 inches, 1968
Hare Mother and Child
oil on masonite 24 x 17 inches, 1968
Dog Team -- oil on masonite 24 x 48 inches, 1967
Dog Team
oil on masonite 24 x 48 inches, 1967
Our Lady of Lourdes -- acrylic on canvas board 18 x 24 inches, 1979
Our Lady of Lourdes
acrylic on canvas board 18 x 24 inches, 1979
Woman with Sewing Machine -- oil on masonite 22 x 26 inches, 1978
Woman with Sewing Machine
oil on masonite 22 x 26 inches, 1978


Bern Will Brown in Colville Lake, NWT -- photographs from 1950s
Bern Will Brown in Colville Lake, NWT
photographs from 1950s


Bern Will Brown

July 22, 2014

Dear Artist,

My friend Bern Will Brown is 86 now, but he's still going strong. He's spent the last 44 Bern Will Brown, 2010 painter, pilot, priest, pioneer, photographer and author
Bern Will Brown, 2010
painter, pilot, priest, pioneer, photographer and author
years in Colville Lake (pop. 100), an isolated outpost way up in Canada's far north. Born in upstate New York, Bern spent his childhood looking across Lake Ontario and marvelling at the northern lights. "That's where I knew I had to go," he always tells me.

In 1948 he became an Oblate priest and was sent to a northern diocese. As a kid, he had painted in oils--so he took his paints with him. In 1971 he took up with Margaret, a part-native woman from Tuktoyaktuk, and this event precipitated his eventual defrocking. Along the way he and Margaret established the Colville Lake Lodge, a hunting and fishing resort that has entertained some of the crowned heads of Europe, politicians, movie stars, and just plain rich folks. He has a museum and art gallery on site, and this is where he sells his paintings. He hands his potential customers a key to the gallery and lets them look around in there. If they see something they like and bring it out to him, he wraps it up for them. Bern doesn't like talking about his work.

While isolation and the long winters make for cozy reflection and undisturbed painting, Dog Team on Spring Ice -- Fort Norman (Tulita), NWT, 1949 photo by Bern Will Brown
Dog Team on Spring Ice
Fort Norman (Tulita), NWT, 1949
photo by Bern Will Brown
there's a price to pay for being out of the loop. Southern art dealers have trouble handling his work because he insists on getting his price. He resents dealer mark-ups, and selling from home to northern travellers at direct prices has undermined his potential wider success. Further, he has made it even tougher for dealers by demanding that they supply him with the names and addresses of all purchasers. "So I can send them a Christmas card," he says. Last year he and Margaret sent 750. The Browns have no email, no computer. But he knows exactly how many paintings he's sold. "1342 to date," he says proudly. "And there's fifty in my gallery right now, ready to be sold. The prices are clearly marked." He's got a mind like a steel trap. Bern is his own best dealer.

Bern loves his adopted land--the people and animals of the tundra and taiga. His paintings honour both the traditions and the changes. Dogs and canoes have transmogrified into skidoos and jet boats. Up until a few weeks ago he flew his own float plane. There's nowhere up there that Bern has not been in order to get his stuff.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "I had no idea that things would change so rapidly, so drastically." (Bern Will Brown)

Esoterica: Bern learned French and then the language of the Hare Indians. He mastered fishing and End-of-Earth People: The Arctic Sahtu Dene -- published March 29, 2014 author Bern Will Brown
End-of-Earth People: The Arctic Sahtu Dene
published March 29, 2014
author Bern Will Brown
hunting, breeding huskies, building igloos and making snowshoes. As well as being the local priest, he served as carpenter, musician and medic--delivering babies, pulling teeth and flying medevacs. When he and Margaret married, they did so in "Our Lady of the Snows," the log church that he built with his own hands. "It's a great life," he says, "and Margaret and I are going to stay put above the Arctic Circle where we're happy. I figure I'm still good for painting until 95 or thereabouts."

This letter was originally published as "Minister of change" on May 19, 2006.

Artist, pioneer, filmmaker, journalist, dog-musher, pilot, priest and Robert's friend Bern Will Brown passed away at home on July 4, 2014 at the age of 94. He is buried at Colville Lake.




Bern Will Brown's latest book, End-of-Earth People: The Arctic Sahtu Dene published March 29, 2014, is available at Amazon.com.

An excellent video of Bern Will Brown, published May 22, 2012 by Inuvialuit Television, can be watched on YouTube here.









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Featured Workshop: Donald Jurney
<b>Donald Jurney workshops</b> The next workshop will be held in Holland from September 4th to September 12th, 2014.

  <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>take a look here</a>.
Donald Jurney workshops
The next workshop will be held in Holland from September 4th to September 12th, 2014.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.
Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Archie Beaulieu,   Fort Rae, NWT, Canada



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.


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Last modified: Nov 21, 2014