Gelsy Verna
Memorial website in the memory of your loved one
Tributes and Condolences
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remembering you...  / Stephen Perkins (friend)  Read >>
remembering you...  / Stephen Perkins (friend)
...was in the art department today at madison and came across your project art space but it was empty, and so i've applied to show my recent anti-trump work in there. but either way i was reminded of your wonderful spirit & warmth and i miss you... steve Close
Just thinking of Gelsy  / Phyllis Palmer (Iowa Roommate )  Read >>
Just thinking of Gelsy  / Phyllis Palmer (Iowa Roommate )
Woke up this morning with Gelsy on my mind. Thinking about her at the kitchen table with the brown ceramic mug and a piece of toast that she would dip in her morning beverage. She had a brilliant smile. Wishing I had some of her artwork around me. In our living room we had a painting (done by Gelsy) of a bicycle. Her art was large in every sense of the word. And this morning I am wishing I had some of her art on my walls. Peace. Close
Triste nouvelle...  / Eric Clairvoyant (Ami)  Read >>
Triste nouvelle...  / Eric Clairvoyant (Ami)

Allo Gelsy;

Je viens d'apprendre cette nouvelle par des amis de Peace Centennial.  Toi qui aimé la vie à pleine dents ça se voyait par ton sourire au primaire et j'imagine que cette .nergie s'est amplifiée avec les années.


Des gens comme toi faut en avoir dans ce monde qui part à la détresse.  Je souhaite que tu fasses rire du monde ou tu te trouves présentement et j'espère que nos chemins se croisseront lorsque j'irai à l'au-delà que l'on rie encore et encore....


Fais attention à toi!


Ton copain de Peace Centennial Éric!

Au revoir Gelsy !  / Michel Baudoin (Amie d'enfance )  Read >>
Au revoir Gelsy !  / Michel Baudoin (Amie d'enfance )

J'ai appris ta mort il ya deux ans. Bien que nous nous étions pas revus depuis la fin du secondaire, cela m'a fait un choc. Tu as fait partie, toi et ta gentillesse, ton sourire, de ma jeunesse et donc de ma vie. À ce moment, c'est donc une partie de ma jeunesse qui c'est attristée, qui s'est assombrie. Tu es cependant toujours là avec ton sourire et je te vois comme dans le temps mais je sais que je ne pourrais plus jamais avoir l'occasion d'avoir de tes nouvelles..... Cela m'a quand même fait réaliser à quelle point cette période de nos vie est importante.

Un grand scientifique a dit : De part la création de l'univers, nous venons des étoiles. Poussières d'étoiles nous étions et poussières d'étoiles nous redeviendrons un jour...

Quand cela sera mon tour, moi aussi j'irai là où tu es maintenant. J'espère alors pouvoir être à coté de toi et briller, tout comme toi,  dans le ciel étoilés de la nuit des temps.....

Ton copain de Peace Centennial et de De Roberval, Michel


Au revoir Gelsy...  / Claude Cipelletti (Childhood friend )  Read >>
Au revoir Gelsy...  / Claude Cipelletti (Childhood friend )

It is with much sadness that I learned of Gelsy's passing. I had lost contact with Gelsy many years ago but she was such a vibrant soul that I always remembered her.

We had lot's of laughs she lit up the room wherever she went.


Au revoir belle Gelsy.


Claude Cipelletti



Memories / Joe Prescher (Student, Friend, Fan )  Read >>
Memories / Joe Prescher (Student, Friend, Fan )
         I was struck when I saw Gelsy in class for the first time struck again when I heard her voice and again when I heard her perspectives on art and life. 

I spent my time Studying @ Iowa learning from her sharing with her and admiring her.  I was her TA for a semester in Painting.

Later we had the chance to become friends again and talked about art teaching society.  She has been a firm presence in my mind since that first class in 1993 and somehow I refuse to understand that she moved on.  I still understand her presence here and hear her rich voice the humour in her words a laugh coming forward her style and strength. 

I saw her make an impression and a difference in soo many lives and bring openess gentleness acceptance to everyone she touched. 

I never made that trade with her painting for painting.  The last time I saw her I thought there would be the chance to see her again. 
Its hard to imagine not hearing her voice again.
It still confuses me that she isn't there.
Its taken a year to put words here and I'm still at a loss.

Thank you for the memorial.

Joe Prescher
Gelsy I can't believe the news  / Claire Carew (friend)  Read >>
Gelsy I can't believe the news  / Claire Carew (friend)

Gelsy University of Guelph / Claire Carew (Friend from University )

Dear Gelsy;

Today Januari 16 2010 I found out of your passing. Time so fleeting forging its way between you my artist friend. I recall pleasant times with you at University of Guelph in the 1980's and spending time with your family in your stunning opulent family home in Montreal.

Didn't know you were born on the same day as my beloved uncle Harry and that your mother and daughter's name are both Clara. 

Your etching has always sat visible for me to see every day for the last 15 years. Wanted to find you to talk about all that we can do for your beloved home Haiti. Google and found your name... Rest in peace soft-spoken sophiscated beautiful Gelsy. Your calm approach to life and your smile I will always remember.

Gelsy University of Guelph  / Claire Carew (Friend from University )  Read >>
Gelsy University of Guelph  / Claire Carew (Friend from University )

Dear Gelsy;

Today Januari 16 2010 I found out of your passing. Time so fleeting forging its way between you my artist friend. I recall pleasant times with you at University of Guelph in the 1980's and spending time wit your family in your stunning opulent family home in Montreal.

Your etching has always sat visible for me to see every day for the last 15 years. Wanted to find you to talk about all that we can do for your beloved home Haiti. Rest in peace soft-spoken sophiscated beautiful Gelsy.

If I only knew you when...  / Thomasjasen Thomasjasen (none)  Read >>
If I only knew you when...  / Thomasjasen Thomasjasen (none)
Everytime I saw you, my heart leaped to my throat. I wanted to ask you out to dinner, but I am only a black man whose confidence with black women has been shattered. But you smiled at me with those sparkling eyes as if to say, no matter how old I have become, I still have a lot to offer. I'm sorry I was to scared to show you what a good cook I am. I'm sorry I was scared to show you the flowers from my walk in the woods. When I left them on your desk, I did not leave a note. Please forgive me. Close
Gelsy touched so many  / Townsend Jacinda (friend)  Read >>
Gelsy touched so many  / Townsend Jacinda (friend)
I just learned today of Gelsy's death, when I received a letter from Deborah in response to my Christmas card, and felt such an incredible loss, even though I hadn't been in close contact with her for years. I didn't know Gelsy in a professional sense, though I did so admire her art. I knew her as a fellow mom, and as such, she was such a role model for me. She got me through a horrible pregnancy, and gave my daughter the most beautiful coat! When our kids were very small, Gelsy took the time to pass some of Clara's most beloved books, jewelry, etc. to my daughter through the mail. The things are so much more beloved to me now. As the girls got older and we got busy, we had lost touch. But I will remain, forever, touched by her. Close
Still Very Much Shocked...  / Boris Gregorich (Friend)  Read >>
Still Very Much Shocked...  / Boris Gregorich (Friend)

Gelsy was one of our closest friends during her years in Iowa City. We shared so many wonderful memories, had laughed so much, had so many brunches together, have seen so many "Bijou" movies; there were always the discussions about people, life and art, about her family of which she was very fond (especially her father whom, sadly, we have also met and liked very much); our agreements, disagreements, all that with Gelsy's inimitable Carribbean sense of timing that sometimes drove me crazy (because it was so unpredictable!), but always made me and Denise happy to have had such a wonderful friend.

Gelsy, sorry we haven't been in touch lately,  but both Denise and I will remember your for ever.

See you in the great beyond!


My friend, my countrywoman, fellow parent  / Jennifer Angus (Friend)  Read >>
My friend, my countrywoman, fellow parent  / Jennifer Angus (Friend)
There are many people who knew Gelsy better than me and longer than me although I did know her for nearly 20 years. Still I would like to tell you about the side of Gelsy that was particular to our friendship. Her death has struck very close to home for me. We were born in the same year, 1961. We are or were both Canadian citizens and we were both single parents.

We met when we were graduate students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Gelsy was in painting and I was in fiber but our studios were in the same building and on the same floor. Given that we virtually lived in that building for 2 years we got to know each other quickly. We had an instant connection being the same age and both from Canada.

As students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago I recall Gelsy as one of the most popular people. People seemed to gravitate towards her. She appeared to know everybody. She radiated a kind of confidence that most of us did not have. When someone was new to the building she always made the effort to introduce herself and people were drawn to her because of her friendly and outgoing nature. End of semester critiques were grueling, nerve-racking public events. Those of us on the 5th floor of the Wabash studios were a community and I would have to say that Gelsy was at the heart of that community. We often shared post critique rants over the unfairness of certain comments and the wish that certain persons would never darken our studio door again.

Upon graduating Gelsy and I did keep in contact for several years. She was a much better correspondent than me. We did lose touch but a chance meeting in Chicago reconnected us and then one year later we both found ourselves assistant professors here at UW Madison. Our friendship was rekindled despite the time that had pasted. Particularly in the first three years we hung out a lot. We went to movies, had dinner and of course commiserated about the difficulty of getting a green card. Eventually I learned that she was considering becoming a parent and that she was curious how I managed as a single parent. Knowing that it was her desire I offered encouraging words but to be honest it is exceptionally difficult to do it all – teach, make art and parent all of those full time and do it all by yourself.

People may not be aware how very brave and determined Gelsy was. I never planned to be a single parent – I just was. Gelsey planned it with eyes wide open. She knew her pregnancy would be a high risk one because of an existing health condition yet she knew that she really wanted to be a parent.

Our generation has very few women artists with children – certainly none of our professors and mentors had children and we grew up in a time when there was an unspoken rule that you couldn’t be a “serious” artist and have children. I know I did a lot of soul searching, looked for role models who had done it and succeeded – I couldn’t find any. Her decision to go ahead, alone no less was considered a kind of professional suicide by many. But she did it. Her beautiful daughter Clara was born, she continued to be an inspiring teacher to her students and to create work in the studio. Without the assistance of family members nearby she made things work. It speaks volumes to her courage and tenacity.

I didn’t see Gelsy very often after Clara was born because of course she was crazy busy! Despite that whenever I did see her she always looked the picture of elegance and sophistication. Of course I have given a lot of thought to Gelsy since her passing and one of the things I have realized is that to me Gelsy was the picture of cool. She was popular, articulate, bilingual, well traveled and incredibly well read. For those young women looking for a role model who did it all I would say that Gelsey Verna would be an excellent one.

I will miss Gelsy very much, my friend, my countrywoman, fellow parent - a comrade in arms so to speak. I can only hope that I can be cool like Gelsy some day.

Jennifer Angus
Gelsy will be sorely missed.  / Jose Rodriguez (Grad Student UW-Madison )  Read >>
Gelsy will be sorely missed.  / Jose Rodriguez (Grad Student UW-Madison )
I am very saddened by the news of Gelsy's passing. Needless to say it comes as a total surprise and a complete shock to loose someone so young. Although my relationship with Gelsy was but one brief semester before my leave of absence, for sure her presence on the faculty was one of the big reasons for my choosing UW. Gelsy was a great advisor and support for me before my leave; she always offered honest and constructive feedback and never failed to bring insightful and enlightening resources and references to the table. Unfortunately I am not in the United States now and won't be able to participate in the upcoming memorial services, but I am glad for this opportunity to reach out here especially because I'm half way around the world in Okinawa, Japan. For me, as an artist of color coming from a non-Western art history perspective, Gelsy brought a diversity to the UW Art Department that was very important and will be sorely missed. And I know, from conversations with other grad students, that Gelsy's insight went far beyond ethnicity, or race, or gender issues. She was an inspiration to everyone I know who had the pleasure of working with her. I was very much looking forward to working with her again upon my return next fall. I truly believe that Gelsy's passing leaves a void that will indeed be difficult to fill. In grief, Jose Rodriguez Close
peter@peterlocascio.-com / Peter LOCascio (Friend from ARt Institute )  Read >>
peter@peterlocascio.-com / Peter LOCascio (Friend from ARt Institute )
I first met Gelsy at Skowhegan even though we both attended the art institue in chicago together. Gelsy would usually come over after dinner and chat with people at my cabin. I found Gelsy to be engaging funny and just plain fun. She brought a lot of light and goodness to everyone she met. Gelsy I know your light shines on even brighter than ever. thanks for gracing me with your light and the good times we had at Skowhegan. All the best in your new adventures, Peter Close
Gelsy added color to the world!  / Phyllis Palmer (Roommate in Iowa )  Read >>
Gelsy added color to the world!  / Phyllis Palmer (Roommate in Iowa )
I met Gelsy in Iowa when she answered my ad for a room-mate. When I met her I liked her instantly. She was different. My house was all white with no paintings. Soon Gelsy added color and purpose to all the walls in our home. It made the home a joyful place to be. I am saddened to hear of her passing. She added color to the world. My sympathies to Gelsy's family. I know she loved you all very much by the way she always spoke of you. And Gelsy felt even more blessed when Claire came into her life. Although Gelsy and I have not had lots of contact since I left Iowa in 96, (just xmas cards) I imagine her impact on the world was large and that she will be greatly missed. Close
Gelsy, the Beloved Professor  / April Baker (former student and friend )  Read >>
Gelsy, the Beloved Professor  / April Baker (former student and friend )

Gelsy Verna was/is a powerful force in the lives of her students.  I met her in the fall of 1995 at the University of Iowa in my first semester of graduate school. The first time I saw her was at the first Graduate Workshop class on a Thursday night, and I admired the way she put colors together in what she was wearing, her calm and her obvious greatness. From the first studio visit, I loved the way she spoke English (stripped of the unnecessary), the complexity of her analysis of images and her ability to locate the crux of the attempt, the actual underlying message in a painting (frequently buried). It required a great deal of focus to follow the intricacy and depth of her reading of a painting. Her studio visits took you on a journey to the attic closets of your creative subconscious, leaving you tired, amazed, excited about painting and feeling like you had left the earth for a while.  It was the kind of challenge you pray for from a professor. And it was a great delight to have many of these visits over the next few years. Being a painter of personal narrative, my stories were a part of the work. Gelsy could listen to tragic stories and just hear them, responding, not reacting-taking the stories in and holding them with compassion and equanimity.  I believe that she held the stories of many of her students this way.

                She was much more than a brilliant professor of painting for us. She was not long out of graduate school herself when she began teaching at Iowa. She didn’t keep the students at arms length. She came to all of our parties and dinners, celebrated our shows, triumphs, and heartbreaks, and kept up with our love lives. She was very involved with us. I stayed in Iowa City for two years after graduation. I was very lucky to have coffee and lunches during that time with Gelsy and hear more about what was going on her life. After I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, she kept in touch with me through e-mails, letters and calls and a few years ago a delightful visit. It was after the fire and Gelsy was talking about the things that survived, she told me that the Rabbit Sleeper painting had somehow made it. She was drawing plans about how to rebuild and she kept wondering out loud how big she could make her home studio.

               Clara was born one year and one month before my daughter, Rose. Gelsy was so supportive while I was always panicked and stunned by the demands of motherhood.  About twice a year, she would send me big boxes of Clara’s clothes that she had outgrown. I would open these boxes and that smelled like Gelsy, and find an encouraging letter telling me that it would get better. It was very comforting.

                Gelsy was someone who I could always talk to about various crises and joys, and I assumed that she would always be there. I was just a student/then former student/a far-away friend, but Gelsy was a very important person in my life. She was a tremendous light, and the world does not feel right without her in it.  I don’t know if she knew how much I loved her. I don’t know if she knew how much she was loved by her students and the impact she had on their lives.

My husband, daughter and I drove from Charlottesville to Montreal to attend Gelsy’s funeral this past weekend. I was always e-mailing her that I was going to drive to Madison “this summer.” Not being able to do that, I needed to drive to where she was to say goodbye.  I know that as considerable as my grief is that she is gone, that the grief of her closest friends and family is a thousand fold to mine. You have my deepest sympathy and condolences. 

Gelsy, my dear, we love you! Bisous! Close
Professor / Michaeline Crichlow (friend)  Read >>
Professor / Michaeline Crichlow (friend)
Gelsy and I were colleagues and friends at the University of Iowa. We moved, she to Madison, and I to Durham. But we stayed in touch on email and by telephone. Gelsy helped me to survive Iowa. Life there would have been dull without her. We shared a lot together. I will miss her dearly. I hope that I will never lose touch with Clara, her dear daughter. Close
Gelsy was the real deal  / Polly Burnell (Fine Arts Work Center fellow )  Read >>
Gelsy was the real deal  / Polly Burnell (Fine Arts Work Center fellow )
I met Gelsy when she was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA ten years ago. A few of us who'd been fellows before and still lived in town befriended newer fellows and spent time there, sharing meals, visiting studios, and attending openings and readings. Gelsy was one of the people I remember best from those years. She was the real deal as a terrific person and dedicated, talented, true-to-herself artist and it showed in her work. She was warm, kind, funny, and smart and I always loved being in her presence, and I know that a lot of people felt the same way. She told me stories about her family and Haiti, and I could tell that she was very proud of their courage, something that stuck in my memory over the years. She must have been a great teacher and wonderful mother, though I was not privileged to see her in those roles. My prayers and thoughts are with her daughter, her family, and everyone who was lucky enough to know her. I realize that her father died a few days after she did, so to her family I send my heartfelt condolences and wishes for healing. Close
A childhood friend  / Monique Elmaleh (Une amie d'enfance )  Read >>
A childhood friend  / Monique Elmaleh (Une amie d'enfance )

It is with great sadness that I read today of Gelsy's passing as well as her Dad's. I met Gelsy in High school and we became great friends. She had this amazing infectious smile and you couldn't help being in a great mood around her. I am sorry we lost touch but I can see that she became a great lady. Rest in Peace pretty girl with ribbons around your braids.

Always in my heart!

Une amie d'enfance...  / Dominique Pétin (amie)  Read >>
Une amie d'enfance...  / Dominique Pétin (amie)
Je viens de lire le journal et j'apprends avec stupeur que Gelsy n'est plus.  Nous avons le même âge.  Nous avons été à l'école  primaire et secondaire ensemble.  C'est si étrange...J'ai beaucoup pensé à elle ces dernières semaines.  Sans savoir...Je me souviendrai toujours de la petite Gelsy; une sourire à faire fondre les glaciers.  Coquine, sensible et intelligente, voilà qui traduit bien qui elle était. C'est avec tristesse que j'apprends cette nouvelle.  La famille Verna (je salue Henri-Donald et Mahalia) est bien éprouvée.  Je pense à eux et me joint à leur chagrin.

Je garde le souvenir de mon amie précieusement au creux de ma mémoire.

Dominique Pétin Close
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