Ellen Bang‑Birge died at her home in Vineyard Haven on December 2, with her husband, Gary Birge, at her side.
An international sculptor and artist, Ellen Bang was born on April 21, 1954, in Lysaker, Norway, a suburb of Oslo. She spent her childhood years there. Her college days and life after college were spent in Bergen, Norway. She achieved a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Art Academy of Bergen. She had a degree in teaching art, as well. She has shown her work in 13 countries. Her sculptures can be viewed at ellenbangart.com.
In 1986, while studying whales in Baja, Mexico, for an upcoming sculpture project, she took a side trip to Puerto Escondido, where she met and fell in love with her husband, best friend, and sailing partner of 25 years, Gary Birge. After completing the whale sculpture project and the artist study grant in New York City at P.S. 1, in 1987 she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, to Woodacre, Calif., to live with Gary, and his two children, She gave birth to their only son Erik in 1988. He is her best creation. Her works were shown up and down the West Coast. She infused her art into everything she did.
In 1999 she moved with her family to Martha’s Vineyard, after only visiting twice, nearer to her childhood home. She loved the closeness and community here. She had many close friends here. She loved walking on the beach, as the sun was awakening the day, with her husband and dogs, and did that every day she was on the Island. She loved sailing over to Tarpaulin Cove and Cuttyhunk.
From her son, Erik: “The world was unfortunate enough to lose a soul as beautiful as my mother’s. She was an extremely sweet person who always saw the best in people. I couldn’t begin to describe what she has done for myself and all those she knew. I do know that there isn’t a single person who knew my mother that didn’t fall absolutely in love with her. She brought out the best in everyone with her naïve, kind, loving personality and charm. The world will truly be a lesser place without her, we will all miss the joy and cheer she could bring to anyone. We all love her, and will miss her for the rest of our lives.”
Ellen leaves behind her husband Gary Birge, and son Erik Bang‑Birge of Vineyard Haven, and step‑sons Lucas Collins Birge of San Rafael, Calif., and T. Quist Birge of Chico, Calif. She also leaves behind her mother, Anne‑Marie Bang of Staabek, Norway, her sister, Ragnhild Bang of Heggedal, Norway, and her brother, Ole Bang of Asker, Norway, along with many nieces and nephews.
Many thanks go to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, their staff, Carol Forgione, Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, and the Vineyard Nursing Association. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be sent to Hospice of M.V., P.O. Box 2549, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557.
A memorial for Ellen will be held at Chapman, Cole, and Gleason Funeral Home, on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road in Oak Bluffs on Thursday Dec. 22, 2011, from 5 to 7 pm. Please come help us celebrate her life.