Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gayle Wimmer R.I.P.

I signed up for Gayle Wimmer’s fibers course as my very first elective in graduate school. The description emphasized installation and the use of photographic processes though I knew absolutely nothing about fibers. I would take this class four more semesters, still knowing very little about the medium by the end of my graduate degree.

Gayle turned into one my most influential mentors at the University of Arizona. I enrolled in her class every term and she would have served on my thesis defense if she was not in Poland on sabbatical. On a technical level, she taught me a process I utilized in my MFA show (ethyl acetate transfers onto cloth, Kleenex, and paper bags). Artistically, she helped place my interest in family as subject matter into a broader context. It was also through her thoughtfulness, kind demeanor and interactions with students that I learned how to become a better professor.

She had great impact on me as a woman with an international art reputation, one who lived alone with her beloved cat dedicating her life to her work, and one who traveled extensively to fuel her practice. I learned about grant writing through Gayle as she planted the idea that applying for Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships were essential. It was through her practice that I learned what I could become through hard work and dedication.

I became familiar with Petah Coyne’s installations with horsehair from Gayle. Whenever I see a photograph of an Eastern European haystack, I think of her. I can clearly see her staring at me over the rims of her glasses after asking a poignant question and I could recognize her distinctive blocky handwriting fourteen years after last seeing it.

Recently, I decided to make an artwork dedicated to our last phone conversation in January 2007. I searched for her online, hoping that I would not find an obituary, but that was indeed what I discovered. Last month while I was on the residency in Wyoming mapping out a plan for this artwork, she died at the age of 69 in Pennsylvania the very same week. This information brings great sadness and makes it imperative that I create this piece.

All the obituaries mention the impact she had on her students. I am not alone when I say that a great artist and professor passed away last month. Gayle Wimmer will be missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.