this sinking feeling13 Jun 2006
I have a lot of things still on my mind about Will and his death, but they’re not really coming together into any one cohesive flow of thought. I thought that over the course of the last week, my grief would crystallize in one moment, or in one outpouring of grief and words here, or anywhere, and I’d move on and things would get back to normal. But it hasn’t really been like that. It comes and goes in waves, in between bouts of dealing with my day to day responsibilities. One minute I’m fine, and the next I’m in the bathtub on the verge of tears. What am I, pregnant?
Anyways, I’ve been coping through the normal avenues so far: digging through memorabilia. I found some good, pretty funny stuff that I may post at some point.
One thing I did want to talk about now was a later memory of Will from the beginning of when we more or less stopped keeping in touch – a memory sparked by reading a myspace post from someone I don’t even know:
I met Will in another of Barbara’s classes a few years prior. On this last day of the semester–my last day as an art student–Will gave his presentation of his final piece. It was a mammoth piece of work–a HUGE canvas that stood almost to the ceiling and ran the length of the average bedroom wall. It was a dark painting, mostly–all these blacks and blues and browns–but its magic was in the light. The large chunk of night was erratically punctured by pulsing swirls of painted luminosity. It was both soothing to the eyes and more than the eyes could possibly bear. Beauty.
He told a tale of how he drove around on sleepless nights, staring at the lights of the city and hoping something good would happen.
When I looked at that painting, I cried. Barbara Yontz called on me to critique Will’s painting. Through tears, I tried to express that I didn’t know what it was exactly that made me want to cry–whether it was the scale of the work, the precision of the painting, the texture of the brushmarks, the smell of the paint, the touching story Will told, or the humble, sincere way in which he told it…or perhaps the sad fact that I was leaving all this behind…or more probably, ALL of these things combined! I cried and told the class (embarassedly yet assuredly) that Will had always had that effect on me; that his work moved me and excited me; that his character made me want to be an better artist; a better person.
I remember feeling like everyone in that circle wanted to laugh at me, but Barbara Yontz joined me in my tears and said, “Yeah. I *get* that.” And Will–awkard, gentle, genuine, adorable Will–just looked at me and said, “Thank you.”
I know the painting she’s talking about – I had seen it at one of his earlier exhibitions. It is a beautiful painting. But beyond aesthetics, I remember being more amazed at how well the painting communicated a feeling. When I looked at that painting, I knew exactly what it conveyed: it practically oozed a sortof lonely wanderlust – it was something I could relate to: in my mind, a period of time and place in our lives that we shared.
Will and I had known eachother for a long time, but it wasn’t until after high school that we became closer. We followed similar paths after high school: Without much guidance or confidence, we both went off to huge, ginormous universities at opposite ends of the country. We both hated it (well, I hated BU. lots of love for my boston boyfriend, a_frame), and we both ended up back in Nashville around the same time, trying to figure out what the hell to do next.
We worked together at the Boundry for a while – he as a prep chef, while I just ran food and bussed tables. He took a brief but fanatical interest in cooking during this time, and it was cute and admirable how genuinely interested he was in learning from the head Chef there (Willie, I think? I believe he’s got his own place now.). He was pretty good at it, and though he ended up heading towards a different sort of art, it was easy to see in his passion for cooking how and why he succeeded with art. I’m guessing he decided to pursue a line of work involving less sharp edges after he sliced half of his thumb off with a chef’s knife one night. Ow.
It was during this period that we basically did a whole lot of nothing. Watching movies, listening to the Pixies, and a lot of aimless driving. These were good memories, but I know that later on, during and after our time spent at UT-K, things got worse for him, as they did for me as well in some ways. It was a darker, lonelier time, and it was during this time that Will and I went our separate ways (cue the Journey track). For a while I harbored a bit of resentment towards Will for why and how it happened. He extricated himself rather quickly and jarringly from our friendship, and I took it as a personal rejection. Silly, in retrospect, as I could hardly blame him at the time.
So it was, then, a year or two later when I saw this painting hanging on the wall for the first time, that I realized that Will had found something he really enjoyed doing, and I was able to appreciate this painting not only as a nice bit of art, but also as somewhat of a capstone to that period of his life. And it was great.
Seeing that it had such a profound effect on other people as well made me smile. Hell, it’s making me smile right now.