Tuesday, June 02, 2009

For my blogfan, mentor and friend, Bob Anderson.

Bob died. He was a good friend I like to think, and a great, absurd man. I am sad. He read this blog just about every day, and used to quote me to myself when I was his teaching assistant. I quoted him too, because he had a blog as well. We both knew too many of the mundane details that comprise a person's life and in the end, our conversations went like this;
A: I ate the best Ethiopan last night at....
B: Yeah, I know, I read it on your blog. I went there 2...
A: Weeks ago, yeah I know.
(We both drum our fingers on the table)
B: Have you read this Chris Ware?
A: No, can I see it?

I can't believe he's gone, partly because he was and remains a kind of emblem of Austin for me. I mean, he was everywhere, all the time, supporting his students, his colleagues---I'm pretty sure most of UT enjoyed a bit of drink with Mr. Anderson at one time or another.
His visage is just so burnt into my brain, his long hair and consistently mischievious smile; a soundtrack of truly spooky noise music playing in the background. He loved that stuff. He was a big part of my life at UT, and he really supported me and his other students in their art-making and basic life stuff. He listened to me complain about so much stupid shit over the years, and I acted all the more dramatic and ridiculous because he was so calm and understanding about it all. I really felt I could tell him anything and he would remain amused yet without judgement. He was equally non-judgemental towards his students' art, and he was a great teacher, and he loved it, and he loved his students.
Here's some amazing stuff about Bob, I wish I could remember more, because I really enjoyed some of the weirdly wise things he said over the course of our 4 year friendship:
Every year on Halloween he stayed at home dressed like some kind of ghost and scared neighbor children when they came to ask for candy.
At Nohegan he wore a balloon hat and made intricate little pen drawings on rocks. They were totally fucking beautiful and bizarre.
He made drawings for all the grad students during their oral exams. He made one for me just months after I purchased a drawing of his at Arthouse's 5x7. I think I was kind of pissed that I spent 75 dollars on a drawing, only to have a similar one given to me a short time later. He told me afterwards that he made it with a blue ballpoint pen bought in Berlin, where I am now living. Somehow this seems important.
His three drawings were the only things adorning the walls of my room while I lived in Austin, and I'm pretty sure they are the only pieces of art I didn't lose or mistakenly put gum on over the years.
He swam every day, and was a fellow Pisces and sometimes we would talk about how fucked up we were because of our sign. We both had a lot of nightmares about sinking ships. And if I remember correctly, he was a glider in his flying dreams, while I was a flapper. And I might be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure he chose invisibility as his preferred superpower.
He came to every party I ever threw. I remember having a robot party with Erin Curtis and he wore a Mexican Wrestler's mask. I've never been sure how he misinterpreted our robot theme, and frankly I don't remember him giving much of an explanation but he was never really the most orthodox thinker (or costumer apparently).
He introduced me to some of the most perverse comics ever. S. Clay Wilson I remember in particular. Man, it was so disgusting and so good. I remember really vividly his excited and naughty expression as we poured over some of those lurid pages. I mean there were others too, Charles Burns and company---that was kind of our daily ritual. Sometimes he would copy stuff he thought I would like and put it in my box at school. Really grotesque woodcuts of birthscenes and the like. In return I would lend him some of my favorites like Dick Tracy and Flannery O'Connor. He loved Flannery and Evil Dead II and The Exorcist and all of those other things that are dark and ridiculous and poignant.
When he met my mom he told her some really sweet things about me, giving her a false picture of me as a better adjusted human being than I was at the time. As a consequence, she always asks about him.
In the fall of 2007, I TA'd his shared class with Michael Mogavero and it is that time that I'm trying to hold on to the most. When he came back from Italy to resume teaching he was like a changed man. I mean, he was fucking ecstatic. Definitely the happiest I ever saw him. He talked about his trip all the time; the wine, the students, the swimming, the conversation, the beautiful Tuscan landscape. Right now actually, I am drinking red wine and remembering him talking about those Italian days of wine and ping-pong. He loved friends, and I think he made some good ones in Italy.
Thinking about him so much today, I realize how many friends the man had. Every one involved in any facet of the arts in Austin knew Bob. That's lovely, I am not trying to eulogize him really (although I think Bob would find something inherently funny in that) but it is really beautiful how many lives and currents he was connected to. Bob was a sweet, sweet, sensitive man and even though I'm so far from Texas I can feel how acutely painful his absence will be. God Bob, I really will miss you. I'm trying to download Evil Dead II right now but it's not working.



Dennis Harper said...

My wife, Georgia, met Bob back in the early 90s when he and other U.T. art faculty were making their case to the administration for freedom of expression in virtual exhibit spaces. Bob's artwork was presented as an example of the sort of thing that needed protection. Through these drawings, Georgia, the legal advisor on the committee, became very familiar with Bob's junk.

Georgia introduced me to Bob at an exhibition opening in 2003 when I was, ironically, an art student at U.T. He and I subsequently discovered that we had both lived in southern California in the 60s and attended classes with the printmaker, Sakaguchi, at Pasadena City College.

Bob and I were probably the most avid readers of your blog, and he somehow gleaned that I was the Axel and Trevor who posted comments occasionally. The last thing I remember posting to Bob was: "I think I saw you walking around naked today in the rec center locker room. I hope you were there to swim or something."

Alison said...

aw. Dennis that's sweet. I remember that you both had the socal thing in common. I'm glad you and Georgia protected Bob's work. Hope you're well.