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Miriam Wosk 1947 - 2010: A Tribute by Peter Clothier

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I want to share some thoughts about my friend Miriam Wosk, who died last week after a long battle with illness, at far too young an age. Her loss will be deeply felt by the many people whose lives she touched with both her great spirit and her contribution to the art world as a generous patron and as a uniquely imaginative artist. Miriam was a woman who made art not only in her studio, but of her life. To know her was to be infected with her passionate energy and the joy she took in everything that responded to her hunger for beauty in the world.

And her hunger for beauty embraced seemingly everything. To feed that appetite--and, importantly, her art--she was a voracious collector. She collected colorful baubles and images, scraps of material and pages from obscure, esoteric texts, buttons and ribbons and sequins and anything else that sparkled, glittered or shone. Her studio was a storehouse of these objects, organized and categorized on hundreds of shelves and drawers and plastic containers, all within reach for the moment they were needed. The bulletin boards were an always changing collage of the images that caught her wide-ranging eye, and the walls hung generously with whatever Miriam happened to be working on, or whatever she might need to have in her line of sight in order to find inspiration.

And she found inspiration everywhere. Typically, her art was an assemblage of images and objects that reflected whatever was in her heart and on her mind at any given moment. Her talent was first to find them, then to allow them to come together in both consciously created patterns and intuitive bursts of action from the unconscious mind...

She drew not only on the brilliant sense of design she developed early in her life as a top New York illustrator and designer, but also on the dreams she was devoted to exploring in all their richness and depth. She was able effortlessly to combine her fascination with science--both its history and its cutting edge of contemporary discovery--with an unembarrassed love of kitsch and a refined taste for the highest achievements in art, from which she learned freely and sought tirelessly to emulate.

A visit to Miriam's library made it clear that she was at pains to be knowledgeable in a vast range of topics, and made no bones about pouring everything into her work. She loved books, with or without images, and brought everything she learned from them back with her to the studio. Her work was an insatiable search for meaning as well as for beauty. Call it "metaphysical," because it is at once intensely physical in its use of--and appeal to--the senses; and at the same time transformative of the physical world in which it so delights. Call it "rococo," call it "baroque" in its passion for ornamentation and its uninhibited excess.

There is a dark side to the aesthetic of exuberant excess and of this, too, Miriam was unafraid. Her work is as much about decadence and entropy as it is about the proliferation of life. Eros and thanatos thrive there together as partners and complements...

The skeletons, the anatomical prints and cross-sectional studies of bodies--whether human or animal--that appear so frequently in her work are a reminder that the flesh is transitory and that life is short...

Miriam, I am convinced, was more in tune with the spirit that informs life than the rest of us. She saw what we did not see, and heard what we did not hear, and understood what the rest of us did not understand. She saw, particularly, that death is no more than the flip side of life. Her gift was to share those insights in the art she left behind. And that is quite a legacy.

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