The Life and Art of George Fertig by his daughter, Mona Fertig, is the third in the Unheralded Artists of BC series from Mother Tongue Publishing. In his introduction to the book, Peter Such says: "It takes tremendous courage to plumb the depths of the mystical life, traversing those sometimes frightening labyrinths to find some kind of understanding and enlightenment."
Such was the life of George Fertig, whose inspiration was Carl Jung with whom he corresponded. George's paintings weren't subsidized "by cushy teaching jobs or in-group-engineered arts grants, but by [wife] Evelyn clerking all day and George flipping plywood panels in the mill at night."
Mona Fertig spent fourteen years researching and interviewing to create this testament to her father. It would have taken "tremendous courage" for her as well to delve so deeply into the life of an artist who was never accepted by the established arts community in Vancouver. She focuses on George as a Jungian, a symbolist, a socialist and an outsider struggling to survive as an artist in mid-century Vancouver.
George Fertig was born in Alberta in 1915. His creative passion began at the age of 20 with photography during the Depression and World War II. He was a member of the infamous Trail Mine Mill Union in the 1930s and travelled to Mexico in the 1940s. He moved to Vancouver in 1941 where he met and married Evelyn Luxa. They raised two daughters: Mona and Moana.
Known as the "Moon Man," George Fertig created unique oil paintings that ranged from early landscapes to large and powerful archetypal images and small numinous meditations on eternity. Peter Haase, Mona Fertig's husband, recalls George talking "enthusiastically about the latest space exploration of the Voyager space program in the late 1970s."After George died in 1983, Haase began to understand "a little of the absorption that George held towards the cosmos. His crescent moons and eclipses of planets, his unearthly images of plant life, flowers, dislocated trees and branches, organic bushes, that almost looked like human organs, were very unique and radiated a certain spirituality."Haase believes George had an "inner spiritual understanding" that helped him to express the imagery that appeared in his paintings.
I felt a sadness in reading this book. The artist and father is gone. His work did not gain critical market approval, as was the case with the other artists in The Unheralded Artists Series. And yet he continued to be in touch with that inner voice and vision. It's that vision and inner light that continue to shine through his paintings—and the creative output of his daughter.
I can't remain solemn, because as Mona points out, "he never gave up on his art." It was just a few days before his death that he "cleaned his palette and put his paint and brushes away." Both father and daughter are realizing the gifts of the creative process.
Mona hopes that this story will "inspire those in their darkest hours to carry on. Not because of fame, but because creativity and its process has so many important intangibles and so many wonderful gifts to offer." While there are no public collections of George Fertig's paintings, this book as was his daughter's intent, "is now his public gallery, and my gift of his legacy to people everywhere."
Mona Fertig is a poet, publisher, and book artist. A founding member of the Federation of BC Writers, the BC Book Prizes and the Feminist Caucus of the League of Canadian Poets, Fertig has been a bookseller, a literary events and political organizer, and host of a radio poetry show. She is the co-owner/operator, with her husband, Peter Haase, of Mother Tongue Publishing on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia.
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