Craig Gurganus, one of coastal North Carolina’s most popular artists, has terminal liver cancer. It's that word ‘terminal’ that paints the grim picture ahead for the long-time Beaufort resident.
Simply put. In the short-term, time is not on Craig’s side. In fact, it’s only a matter of time.
In November 2018, Craig learned he had liver cancer. Doctors in Chapel Hill treated him with experimental drugs with little to no success.
Craig’s hope continued that maybe there was a chance to beat it. But the reality has set in.
The dream of better health for Craig’s future does not exist.
The last eight months have been the hardest struggle on all levels that Craig has had to endure. Preceded by the effects of Hurricane Florence which flooded his workshop and without the ability to continue his art, Craig’s income came to a screeching halt.
If you know Craig, you know how the story began.
According to the “Fish Bouffant” legend, while surfing in San Diego one day in 1987, Craig snapped his one and only board. On the drive home from the beach he had what some people would describe as an epiphany.
Craig had a glimpse of a fish outline in one of the pieces of his broken surfboard. He decided he would reuse that broken surfboard and make it useful again. He would turn it into a fish.
The concept of Fish Bouffant, was born.
From that piece, he developed the fish that would become the first of a full-fledged menagerie of creatures including sailfish, dragonflies, shrimp, ladybugs, tiger sharks and more.
“Bouffant is a happy word in French,” Craig explains. It’s supposed to make you happy, in a big way. It’s very cartoonish.”
The “happy” aspect is important part of Craig’s creations, but so is the recycling element.
Craig moved to Beaufort around 1990. He came here to paint houses, ran into a girl from his hometown, and that was it.
“It was like, this is the place. I don’t know, I felt very comfortable here and made this my home,” stated Craig.
And the town has embraced him. “People here have been very good to me,” he said. “People around here really care and look out for local artists.”
A self-described bit of a hoarder, Craig’s workshop is a unique reflection of his personality. His passion for saving and recycling things can be seen outside his Rt. 70 workshop with scores of bowling balls, a Christmas tree made of resin-filled paint brushes, boats, a camper, and an even an old school bus.
Inside, Craig has stacks of boards and remnants of others – some are vintage and rare. But he only cuts into the ones that can no longer be used. If the board is in good shape, or if the art on it is already too good to touch, he hangs on to it.
Craig can tell you the story behind each board.
Using the tools of the home workshop – jigsaw, sanders and paintbrushes – he transforms surfboards into sculpture, each custom made and unique.
Throughout his 20+ year career, Craig has surprised and delighted local residents and visitors with his whimsical creations. His works have been displayed in many local businesses, and art galleries.
Craig’s art exhibits of his work included Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC.
His works can also be found in private collections (including those of ex-presidents and many celebrities) all over the world.
The real story behind Fish Bouffant is the artist himself. Craig did not need a movement to tell us kindness mattered. He lived it.
Craig has touched many people with his art. From Beaufort to across the country, Craig has even developed an international fan base.
But it’s the people from Beaufort that Craig remembers most.
One of Craig’s wishes is to make sure people in Beaufort know he is thankful for their support.
“The community has been amazing,” he said. “I wish I could thank them all.”
Relationships can be complex and Craig's former marriage to Becky Stokes clearly demonstrates that the simplicity of compassion and love for each other can continue. Together they produced one son, Simon. Now a 22-year old young man, his dreams of school have been impacted.
While there's nothing we can do to change Craig's prognosis, we do have the ability to change the outcome.
Many people have asked what they can do to help Craig. Well, the time has come.
The ongoing devastating threat to Craig’s physical body, the overwhelming emotional agony, and insurmountable financial burden due to lost income from his art, medical expenses, unpayable bills has further compromised Craig’s continuing struggle to survive.
With the looming cost of living becoming totally unaffordable, even for his most basic necessities: housing, utilities, food, medications, healthcare provider’s bills, transportation and essential personal care items are all but out of reach - and bills keep coming.
These unconscionable conditions are unbearable stressors that directly wreak havoc on each precious present moment Craig has left.
Fortunately, Craig continues to receive some incredible home hospice care to help make him as comfortable as possible.
An artist, sculptor, surfer, and fisherman, Craig is a humble man that does not like to ask for help.
Please support the fund-raising efforts with this Go Fund Me account. Regardless of the amount, every dollar will make a difference.