It’s not easy being Elvis Presley in this world. That’s one thing Tagish Elvis will tell you. Another thing that wasn’t simple? Building Graceland II.
That’s what Tagish Elvis, formerly Gilbert Nelles, has spent the last eight years doing, he says.
“It’s so beautiful,” Elvis says over the phone from Tagish, a few days after the grand opening he held in mid-October. “It gives everybody in the world a chance to come and see it. I have a museum and an art gallery and the paintings are made so they’re outside year-round. So people can come anytime they want, on the main road, and look at them.”
Fifty people came out to the grand opening at his lot, number 167 on Taku Boulevard. Elvis is anticipating more will drop by once word spreads. It’s something he says he’s wanted to do for a while, to help build tourism in the Yukon, though he’s brought his share of attention to the territory as it is.
The former Nelles (who legally changed his name to Elvis Aaron Presley) claims to have been possessed by the soul of the original Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll, ever since a UFO struck him with a beam of light in 1986. He’s been the subject of a documentary called The Elvis Project and has appeared on Dragon’s Den, where he tried to sell his music and art to the dragons for $58,000. He was unsuccessful in this endeavour, but some of those paintings are included in the museum on his Tagish property.
The subject matter of those paintings is varied. Elvis says he has painted landscapes and earthly images in the past. This time, he wanted to touch on more spiritual visions.
Both are on display, in brilliant colours. There are abstract florals, rendered in pastel. There are mountains under swirling purple skies, with fireweed at their feet. Some of the paintings are four feet wide, treated to withstand the weather and framed with two-by-fours.
It’s the second time Elvis has built Graceland. The first was in Ross River, where he used to live.
It was harder this time, he says. He’s older now than he was then (“I could grow my big puffy sideburns within 30 days. And now my beard and my hair doesn’t grow anymore,” he says. “It takes me almost a year to grow half an inch on my beard.”) and he made the paintings hardier, by framing them the way he did and adding cement bases that will be finished in the spring.
He’s also hoping to bring a bobcat in to build flowerbeds at the site, which includes a log cabin museum.
The museum is full of smaller paintings and prints, as well as memorabilia including framed photos, beaded guitar straps, records, cassettes and CDs.
Some are of his original recordings.
Elvis says he doesn’t perform much anymore, but he’s still writing.
“I have a little zoom palmtop studio; that’s how I start my songs with the vocals and then maybe a drum beat or bass line or something,” he says. “But somehow I glitched it and I only have music for jazz. And I never liked jazz. That was the worst thing. But I had no choice, so I made up five or six jazz songs and they turned out beautiful. Shows you what the heck do I know?”
Graceland II is open to all. People can stop by any time to stroll the grounds and take in the artwork.
Contact Amy Kenny at firstname.lastname@example.org