The first time I met Cliff, I was trying to find an MFA committee and everybody was either uninterested or on sabbatical or something. I felt like I didn't even know why I was in grad school at all and was desperate and sad and pessimistic. I showed up at the Art Barn and this slightly dishevelled, David Lynch-looking guy walked in, and after we both stood in the doorway awkwardly for a minute, I finally asked if he was Cliff and he said yes. So we met in some random person's office that wasn't even his. We had an extended conversation about the website for Yvette's Bridal Formal.
He was a total jerk sometimes but it was hilarious. One time he told me I should have a show at this gallery right in front of a guy who ran a different gallery. "Nah, don't show with that guy," he said, right in front of that guy.
I'm late. I get off the rickety elevator to my studio and find him sitting in a crappy plastic chair in the hallway. "Oh good, you're okay! I was worried. I sent you some emails." I am literally only five minutes late. Later, when I check my email, I have three from Cliff, sent in quick succession. "Hey." "I thought we had a meeting." "You okay?"
I unlock my studio. We have our meeting and talk about whatever I'm working on. Then he goes, "You okay though?" He doesn't wait for me to answer before he nods decisively. "Yeah. You're okay. You wanna get something to eat?"
He was very sick and couldn't go to a lot of things. My anxiety prevented me from going to things, too, so it felt like we had a weird connection sometimes. I kept track of his health status by how often he liked stuff on Facebook or Instagram. Sometimes he'd email me out of the blue and it would always be like:
Cliff had a lot of ideas about what I should do. I should probably make a catalogue with every piece of art I've ever made, to show to galleries. The idea was, they could choose the items they wanted and I could bring them all and set them up like some kind of travelling salesman. And I should probably make a weird art website. So I'm making one now.
Thanks for everything, Cliff. I miss you. I bought your old guitar. It makes me smile.