We are in the last week of our Memorial Show for the late Tom Buechner, which ends on November 12. In conjunction with this exhibit, we have been running a series of essays that were written by artists who painted and/or studied with Tom. These essays accompanied an accompanying tribute show consisting of work by these artists that hangs in the upstairs gallery at the West End, which also ends on the 12th.
Today we feature an essay by Dave Higgins.
Out of the hundreds of kindnesses and mitzvahs that Tom did for me, one stands out in particular.
I’m an amateur musician. I play many different instruments, and for years I have been recording low-tech versions of my whimsical compositions. One day I gave Tom one of my tapes, and he seemed to enjoy it a lot. I thought he surely must be teasing me, but Tom was serious.
Somewhat later, in 1999, Tom took me to New York to show my paintings to his old friend Ivan Karp, a gallery owner and art world giant (he “discovered” Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and other renowned artists). We all had lunch at a fancy restaurant and Tom and Ivan caught up on old times. I felt like a bug on a windshield, witnessing a big-time world of real consequence. Ivan looked at my work and was very kind in his evaluation (but typically, I never followed through).
At some point during the meeting Tom took out my music tape, I think to give Ivan some insight into my quirky world-view. He asked Ivan to listen to it, but Ivan demurred. Tom politely said, “no, really, you’ve gotta listen to this.” Ivan demurred again, a little more strongly. Tom kept insisting– and Ivan kept declining– in a subtly escalating, ever-polite test of wills. This went on for some time — past the point of friendly protocol. They weren’t faking. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing– two old lions of the art world coming to the brink of cross words over… me?
That was Tom. He went to bat for me when I didn’t even believe in myself. I wish I could thank him just one more time.