Sunday, December 6, 2009

Living alone

I want to go off topic tonight to honor a friend who died. Friday morning I got an email from the head of my department at NCC that a dear colleague, Stacy Israel, had passed away the weekend before in her sleep. Stacy was 49. She and I both teach the Creative Voice class, and Stacy had been teaching art appreciation and art history. She got her degree at SUNY Purchase but it wasn't an MFA- I think it was an MA in Art Education, and I think she always felt a little insecure about that. She wasn't a practicing artist, but she made things, drawings and such. When we had our faculty show last year she tacked up a found object and it seemed to resonate nicely with my burn drawing that hung next to it. She was a big fan of my work, and everyone's work, and she was one of the most generous people I know.

Here's an example: I had work in the flatfiles at ArtSPACE New Haven for years, and every year they had a benefit with a silent auction of the flatfile artists' work, and a live auction of more well-established artists' work. I happened to put in some digital prints that year- it was when I was experimenting with printing on Japanese paper, and I had some palm tree photos from Costa Rica. They weren't very interesting, I think, in retrospect. Stacy would usually go to the benefit and we'd hang out and have fun. It's kind of embarrassing when no one bids on your work. The starting bid was $75. Stacy bought the piece and I'm pretty sure she did it out of friendship. Because she came from a fairly wealthy family. Her late father left her a decent trust fund I guess, and she established a foundation at NCC to benefit the art club and the art department. One time she surprised me with a necklace she had made for me out of red glass beads for my birthday.

She had enormous energy and attention to detail. Her assignments for the art appreciation class were always so interesting, and she did them first herself, to show the students what to do. I could never bring myself to put that much energy into teaching. And she always showed up for school looking kind of elegant- always some nice bracelets, black blazer, scarf, and her hair was almost white, blown out straight. I felt like a shlub compared to her.

They said she died of arterial sclerosis. I don't know how that kills you- heart attack? When I got the email, I just stared at it. It just doesn't compute. She smoked and drank, but lots of people do and they're fine. I was sorry I wasn't in Connecticut to attend the memorial. I heard there was a huge turnout, which doesn't surprise me, and I'm sure many tears were shed. It's funny how you take some people for granted. The last few days I've been reminded of her in little ways over and over. We weren't close friends; I don't know who Stacy's close friends were. But I looked forward to seeing her and it makes me terribly sad that she is not of this earth anymore. Not celebrating Christmas, or seeing in the new year, or even finishing her grades. I'll really miss her.

Of course, this is my worst nightmare, that something will happen to me and no one will know. I called my friend Janet in Albuquerque and she said we should email each other every morning. So the next morning I did, and she replied. But then she called me later and she said she didn't want to do it because she didn't think it was healthy to focus on death every day, even if it was the lack thereof. I see her point.

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