I’ve been feeling numb and broken over the passing of my friend Bill King.
The objective reality is that he was a rare human who defied the absurdity and cruelty of our time by relentlessly motivating us to see what we are through playfulness, mystery, wonder, warmth, fragility and strength in his work. He proved to us that it is indeed possible to live with dignity and humanity even in a time like ours. He was 90 years old. Knowing how he was, he probably worked till the very end. Ending of his life should be celebrated as a great achievement.
But I selfishly wish that he still calls me to say hi, that we still exchange studio visits and chat about how things are.
Not feeling like saying good bye to him at all.
Bill, where did you go?
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Last week I was helping a painter friend, Connie Fox, document her work for a magazine article. It’s always nice to feel a connection through what artists do in our studios. Quite often, the generation gap, cultural gap, or anything that usually could be in between two people just vanishes when we talk about art. Since I wrote a bit last week about what I want my work to do, I was curious what she’d say about the artist’s contribution. She’s survived as an artist much longer than I have. In fact she turns 88 this year. And she is still a very active painter.
I heard what she said and I decided to record it so that I could remember. Here is what I recorded:
“The artist is involved with the spirit of the human being. And it’s very necessary to have that part of human life be in existence in any society to help keep it on the track so it’s not all matter of who wins, who loses, who makes the most profit, who comes out on top or who has the most power”.
I told her that that’s pretty much what I wrote last week. We laughed. I felt good sharing a moment with her standing on the same ground, believing what we do. Very special moment actually.
Then, of course, it made me think if we’ve done any good… She was born in the 1920s. She’s seen the whole growth of corporate domination and the expansion of western neo-colonialism. And in our cultural sphere, she’s seen the whole process of the mystery of our being and our sacred relationship to the universe being replaced with the substanceless marketing ploy of mystique which ultimately serves the status quo of our time: commercialism, militarism, alienation and apathy. Where are we going? As artists, and as a species?
But seeing 87 year old Connie proclaiming her vision was more than enough to make all those concerns irrelevant for the moment. I should also mention that her husband, Bill King, is also an artist–a wonderful sculptor, still very active. He is also turning 88 this year. I should write about them sometime. I sometimes think of them with a sense of awe and reverence. They are the living proof of art providing life with beauty and dignity.