Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Yesterday, a magnificent celebration of the life and work of our friend, Miriam Wosk. The event was held in her home, an environment she had created with great passion, a sure eye for aesthetic pleasure, and an embrace of uninhibited excess. Her studio had been hung, salon-style, with the very best of her work, and every available surface--tables and shelves--was put to work to display the glittering and multi-colored objects she delighted in making: everything from knitted shawls and sweaters to hand-painted shoes. Her spacious library, stacked floor to ceiling and tabletop to tabletop with the books she loved, was a reminder of her voracious appetite for the collective knowledge and creativity of our species. It was a treat to wander with a familiar sense of wonder through the living areas, and to be inspired by the restless urge for beauty that created them.

The ceremony was as Miriam herself had planned, with the intention she brought to everything in her life. She had even, we heard, planned the ritual of her interment in Hawaii, down to the last detail. Even that last rite became her own artwork. Amazing. She had carefully chosen those she wished to speak at her memorial, and each one spoke with love, with humor, with candor--and, of course, with sadness for this shared loss. Afterwards, we were offered an abundant feast and the opportunity to meet with common friends, some of whom we had not seen for years. Miriam would have delighted in the spirit of conviviality, in the huge crowd of friends she still managed to assemble. She would have delighted, too, in the way in which her son inherited her ability to manage the event with a calm sense of the rightness of it all, and with obvious pleasure in the pleasure of those who came together in the house that is now his.

I say, "would have." But the power of Miriam's spirit is such that is was a tangible presence yesterday. We were there to honor her memory, but it was truly as though she had not left us yet; as though she herself were there, presiding with her customary joy over the event. In part, I think, it was the omnipresence of the art she left behind; in part, the persistence of her vision, no matter where you looked; in part, the piece of herself she managed to give to every one of us while she was alive. Much aware of her privilege in life, she did not readily forget the need to share it.

As you can tell, I am much moved by Miriam's death and by the example of her life. They remind me, once again, of the importance of preparing for our death in a life well lived; and of the role that generosity plays in such a life. There are many ways in which we can share ourselves with our fellow beings on this planet, and making art must certainly be counted one of them. But the greatest generosity, I think, is the gift of love. Those in attendance at Miriam's memorial were all the recipients of that gift from her and she, in turn, received as much from them. It was good to be reminded of such things.

(You'll find my tribute to Miriam either here on Persist: The Blog, or here on the Huffington Post--where you'll also find a tribute by Edward Goldman. And here is a link to an obituary that appeared in the Toronto Globe and Mail.)


kara rane said...

Peter Clothier-
Thank you for sharing the memorial of Miriam Wosk, a true inspiration. I am very moved by her art and only discovered her work for the first time yesterday through your blog-persist! Her film "Language of the Soul" is perfect. She truly lives on in timeless beauty.
Kara Rane

mandt said...

Miriam Wosk....what exquisite work, just beautiful and a wonder for the future to know something of her spirit.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, Kara. I hope you'll stay in touch with my two blogs.

And yes, MandT. The right words, as always!

CHI SPHERE said...

The poignant and multi layered universe of Miriam's work leave me inspired and amazed that work of such stature has not been better recognized in her lifetime. Like many before her she lived her life in and artful and loving way without concern for the praise of critics. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky could have been her brother in kind.

The world is a better place knowing the her work remains to be enjoyed by all who are fortunate to experience her art.

Thank you for bring it to our attention Peter.