I found out this past week that my all time favorite art/painting teacher is in hospice and about to die of a large (advanced) tumor in his colon. I think he is about 93-94, and is a total yummy old school abstract expressionist.
I was one of his favorites when I was in school (and he was obvious about his favorites). He called me “Curly” because my hair was pretty insane – as Alabama is waaaay humid. He could also be a total dick, and make people cry. He did not coddle his students. He did not condone mediocrity – which is actually what I liked most about him. Most artists are sofa king sensitive and need to get over themselves anyway. There was a rumor that he use to toss off crappy work from the 4th story painting room balcony during critiques. But the Dean put a squash on that after a few years.
I remember the first time he invited me to see his studio – and I was in awe. Rarely do you ever get to see what your professors are like beyond class. It was a real art studio. Messy, and eclectic. Huge cans of paint I knew cost about $80-$100 each – even way back then. Huge canvas. I wondered if I would ever be able to afford paint/materials and canvas like that. I wondered if someone would even buy my work after I graduated. I tried to absorb it all…… He was from New York – and always talked about New York City. In my little culturally starved 20-year-old-mind, he seemed waaaay too sophisticated to be teaching art in the middle of Podunk Alabama. I idolized him. I imagined what New York must be like.
Even thought I have not seen him or maintained any contact with him in about 20 years – I think of him often. I wonder if he would even like what I was working on these days. I rarely seek approval from people, but I think I would have liked to have known what he thought today, even if it was harsh. Maybe he would think my work is crap? Who knows. All I know is that he left an impact on me. I constantly hear him whispering in my ear as I work.
Anyway, he led a full life. I wish him as little pain as possible. Thanks for everything Sella.
Sella passed away 5 days after I found out he was admitted to the hospice facility.