Tuesday, July 26, 2011

HONORING MAGU...

I learned yesterday morning that my friend Magu had died. It's only a week since I posted a tribute that I wrote at the request of his family, as a part of their effort to raise funds from the sale of his work--in part to help defray mounting medical costs, in part to assure the safe-keeping of his legacy. I was saddened, of course, but not surprised by the news. When I visited him last week in hospital he was in palliative care and, at one point announced with a deep, heartfelt sigh that he wished only for it to be over.

Magu chose his own way, maintaining his dignity and his integrity to the end. Curiously, we did not know each other very well in any normal sense. We met only infrequently along the way, and never spent a great deal of time together. It was about six months before his death that we re-connected; I drove over to his studio in Pomona and we spent several hours pondering his art and mutual thoughts about the art world in a conversation I recorded, thinking perhaps to use it for an "Art of Outrage" segment. Afterwards, he treated me generously to lunch at his favorite Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood, where he was well known, and greeted as though he were the mayor.

I've been trying to come up with an explanation of the bond I know we both felt, despite our very obvious differences: he from East Los Angeles, proud of his Mexican heritage, Latin to his core and I, Anglo-Saxon both by birth and upbringing, much more contained in everything I think and do... I hate to admit it, but I don't even speak Spanish. Absurdly, for one who lives in Southern California, I speak fluent French and German. I should have started to learn the language when I arrived in these parts, still young enough to learn fairly easily. But I didn't. Spending time with Magu, I wished I had and felt somehow disrespectful for the neglect.

Writing briefly yesterday to Magu's son, I came up with the word "recognition." Our common ground was that feeling when you look into another person's eyes and think, "I know you and you know me." Way beyond our superficial differences, I saw the integrity and the humanity in him, and I like to think that he saw mine in me. It's a rare feeling in my experience, and one to be treasured for its rarity. I am sad that we did not spend more time together, and sad that we have lost him at too young an age--he was only seventy at the time of his death. But I feel like a better person to have known him.

I spent the day yesterday on the task of converting my tribute into an obituary. I'm not sure, yet, where it will appear, but you'll certainly find it in due course at Magulandia. Please join me, as and how you can, in honoring the memory of this man and his gifts to the community of artists everywhere.

We are losing artists. Just a couple of days ago I learned of the death of Lucian Freud. And a short while ago, there was Cy Twombley...

2 comments:

mandt said...

"I know you and you know me." That's it.... lovely tribute.

robin andrea said...

A lovely tribute, Peter.