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.


Mr Goodson said...

Good Lord. Rick Randolph asked me on Facebook if I knew A. No more message than that. I said I knew Marty worked with him. And after a little web research I thought Rick was hinting around he wanted to talk about a large piece that was going to cost 50 million close to the bay.
I didn't know that he had died. Was it a health issue that prompted this ?
Sorry Marty. This was a really important friend for you. I envy you having such a great chunk of life collaborating with this great talent and person.

Surly Bird said...

My sympathies, as well. I'm sorry for your loss.

Beata said...

Marty, I didn't know A, but your beautiful words made me feel like I would've really liked him ... and I'm saddened. Those feelings deepened after looking at the website photos of all those wonderful works of art. You chose well, Marty, in your posting of Simon of Cyrene.

My heart goes out to you and Blair.

Beata said...

That A was well-liked is evident in the guestbook entries under his obit on this webpage:

I'm sure it would mean much to A's family to see entries from those of you who knew him.

Krayonzilla said...

Oh my God! Thats terrible. Henry, Ricky J. and I took his class back in the mid 90's at the Athenaeum in La Jolla. Went to a few of his exhibits with his facination with the Rhino skin and stuff. Last time I ran into him was probably1999 as he was coming out of the Art Store in Little Italy. We talked for a bit and he took off.
What a loss and very sadden. Great teacher.

Krayonzilla said...

His Spirit of the Seas would have been awesome "in the best tradition of the Great Masters".
What a loss....I still can't beleive it.

rickart said...

I don't think you can be involved with any part of the visual arts scene in San Diego and not be aware of A.s impact on the whole area. His dedication to his work and to other artists is literally legendary in SD. This is a loss to the whole community.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and memories on this sad day.

Tom Moon said...

Marty, very sorry to hear about A. I only met him once, but I could tell he was a great guy as well as a terrific artist. I'm sorry for your loss.

Dok said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Dok said...

No sir no sir cannot be

Dok said...

He fuckin LIVES right down the street from my FOLKS! No sir no WAY.

Davis Chino said...

Thanks you guys for the kind words.

Dok, yes, it is true. I know you and A. go WAY back to SDSU. It's just unbelievable. How is your dad doing with all of this? I love him--and your mom. I really hope he is OK with the news. A. had so many "older" friends, all of whom felt so paternal toward him--this news has hit all of them very hard, like losing a son. I hope we get to sit down together and talk about it soon. I should be down in San Diego this week, maybe you Sony friends and I can get together and talk.

Dok said...

Marty I can't even fully read your orignal post man. I just can't get past the title. Too unreal. Too horrible. Too should not be true.

I'm picking the Folks up at the airport tonight. I'll have to tell them then, before they read it somewhere. Not looking forward to that. But thank you for your kind words regards them. We have one of those Segal type plaster casts of my Dad playing a chello that he did in one of A's classes. I think maybe you were there. It sits on a corner of their porch. You can't look at it and not think of A.

Still can't really get my own head around it. Ann is just as shocked. A would have been #1 on my top ten "would never" list.

He was like a Titan. A force to be reckoned with. World class sculptor and visionary. Remarkable charsima and humor. So dedicated and confident of his abilities - so well liked and respected. SO full of life. For as long as I've known him, I guess I didn't know him as well as I'd have liked to.

Regards Sony lunch and talk - I and the rest of us _always_ look forward to seeing you.

I promise by then I'll be more rational.