Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DEBRIS: April tears May last for years

“The Broken Obelisk is concerned with life and I hope that I have transformed its tragic content into a glimpse of the sublime.” –Barnett Newman

“The only thing I care about is the expression of man's basic emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, destiny.” –Mark Rothko

Love is the new thing in art. Gone is the fame, the career, the rat race and the flight to New York. Of course that statement has wide blinders on it, but it’s just been so sad around here. There is much to mourn these days, and the art world in Houston is tinged with tragedy. So love, please, ‘cause it will never go away.

Leigh Boone was a tireless art supporter, a regular on the gallery scene, a valuable member of the team at the Houston Center for Photography and an arts volunteer working with many important art spaces. She was riding her bicycle to work at the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy on March 30th when two fire trucks collided in a horrific twist of metal and fate. Boone was brought to Memorial Hermann in critical condition, firefighters were injured, a car was crushed, and the $1.2 million in damage was all for naught—the call was a fake. Leigh died on Good Friday after a twelve day battle for her life. That Easter morning the winds of a thunderstorm whipped a home fire in southeast Houston into a frenzy. Captain James Harlow and firefighter Damien Hobbs entered the house as the fire was dying down, but flames suddenly blasted through the roof and erupted sideways throughout the house. Both were killed. That afternoon, in San Francisco, California, art car enthusiast and metalworking artist Tom Kennedy was pulled under by a vicious undertow while body surfing and drown. Kennedy spent time studying sculpture at the University of Houston and working for the Houston Chronicle; he had traveled extensively building art cars in the past few years.

On the morning of Monday, April 13th, in front of the solemn Rothko Chapel where he had been married, artist and member of the “I Love You, Baby” art collective Dale Stewart took his own life. The park, lush with spring leaves on Live Oaks and a wall of bamboo behind Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk, was peppered with neighbors walking their dogs and students lying in the sun. Leigh Boone was 29; Dale Stewart was 34. That night mourners gathered at Poison Girl to pay their respects to Boone. Everyone signed a white bicycle with Sharpies and bought out the whole stock of I <3 LEIGH tee shirts before 11. At the end of the night the “ghost bicycle” was chained to a telephone pole at the corner of Westheimer and Dunlavy, surrounded by a growing memorial of flowers from well-wishers. On his way home from the event, Kevin Curry, a studio resident at the Lawndale Art Center who knew Leigh from her volunteer work, was the victim of a hit-and-run as he pulled his bicycle into his own driveway. He ended up with a huge gash on his forehead, chipped teeth and cuts and bruises on his face, but thankfully avoided a fractured skull.

That Saturday, two memorial services crossed paths at the Rothko Chapel, where services were held for Leigh and a procession of friends and family left flowers, letters and other tokens for Dale beneath the tree where he passed away. The rain poured down in sheets. The sky took on the pallor of Mark Rothko’s late paintings, created after the Chapel’s large voids and an aneurysm in his aorta, shortly before he slit his wrists in his kitchen after overdosing on anti-depressants in 1970. The city began to flood, and there would be more tragedy to follow. A man driving drunk along Greens Bayou answered his cell phone and swerved into the rain-swollen bayou, killing five children in the car with him. Painful reminders of the precious life we all lead, death will always follow us—and remembering our love for those lost may bring you solace.


Jacob Mustafa said...


Unknown said...

beautifully said...