Paintings by Stacy Govi
My sister, Susan, is four years older than me. We have little in common except our growing-up years near Missoula, Montana, and a fierce, immutable bond. I looked up to her always, for reasons I can’t even name.
Our parents were divorced by the time we were teenagers, and in 1984, at the age of 18, Suz married her childhood sweetheart. Within six months, she was diagnosed with throat cancer. It came from nowhere, and it stopped everything. Incredibly, she survived. I wavered for years--gave up my basketball scholarship, moved around, discovered painting, grew up and fell in love--but I never stopped worrying about her.
Two years ago this November, at the age of 45, Susan was diagnosed with cancer in her brain, liver and lung. “Stage 4,” they said, and she is still fighting.
I wanted to paint us at another, happier time and, in the process, understand more about my love for my sister. I discovered a series of photographs from the mid-70s that my mom took and annotated for my grandparents, and these pictures from Kicking Horse Reservoir provide the material for this series. My mom’s inscriptions on the back of the photos gave the paintings their names.
Here we are with my dad, a fisherman and taxidermist. It looks like he was catching bass that day. I caught sunfish, and Suz, perch. I imagine I was happy to be alone with my family, on the other side of my mother’s encouraging lens. Everything we needed was right there in the camper, and we were safe.