Tuesday, October 14, 2008
A. Wasil, 1951 - 2008
Sculptor A. Wasil took his own life last Sunday. Those of you who knew A. will find this as impossible to believe as I do. A., (yes, just the letter "A."), was the most upbeat, generous, and supportive person I think I have ever known. He was a great teacher, profoundly helpful to all, and it was through his support that I became a full-time artist. He was my employer for almost five years, and during that time we worked very closely together on a variety of his large commissions. You really get to know someone when you are trying to make art together. I'd already been taking his classes and just hanging out and working together with him for fun for five years before he took me on as an assistant.
A. was a great employer. He used to say, "You've only got six really good, productive hours in the day. Don't over-work." More generosity: he paid for me and one other assistant to fly to Rome for four days just so we could see the art (my first trip abroad). He sent me and two assistants and our significant others up to San Francisco for a three-day weekend "just to see the art and relax." This was not a guy getting rich, mind you--not a guy like Richard MacDonald raking in money. He lost money on at least half of the pieces he and I worked on together--but they had to be "just right," before he could say they were finished.
He was a noted teacher and when I was broke and desperate he helped get me started as a teacher of sculpture by convincing the Athenaeum to take a chance on me and let me co-teach a class with him. After we taught one successful class together, he right away went back to the Ath. and started agitating for them to give me my own class. Without teaching I never would have been able to survive as an artist. In all that time of working together, of taking his classes as a student and assistant, of hanging out with him, etc., I only ever saw A. get angry once, and it wasn't even at a person--it was at the VCR for failing to tape Seinfeld. He was a truly first-class temperament.
You can see more of A's work (some of which I worked on as an assistant) HERE.
I think all of us on this board are particularly aware of how difficult it is to make a living as an independent artist. I don't know how many of us are able to really do it, to make a living by just selling fine-art pieces, (I have for a little while, but right now I'm not), but A. did it without any safety net for over thirty years. That's an amazing accomplishment. With regard to making lots of money, A. used to say, "If you're an artist, and you are making a living--enough of a living that you are able to make ART--then you are a success. That's all you need."
This photo I'm posting is of a piece that I think represented our best work together. A. directed the whole thing, and concentrated on sculpting the heads, while I worked mainly on the bodies (sculpting both figures nude, then sculpting the clothing onto them). We had some great times and a lot of laughs, and I think we made some pretty good sculptures together.
He was truly one of the greats, and Blair and I will really, really miss him.