When I visited Kris Strawser in hospice I met her Sister, her partner, and her best friend for the first time. Kris was a very private individual, which I personally respect and appreciate, but meeting individuals who knew her in other contexts was equally heartening and saddening. We connected as Kris lay a few yards away losing her fight with cancer. If only we had met earlier, with Kris there to be the glue binding folks from the vastly different facets of her life. Meeting them gave me such a richer, broader, more complete image of who Kris was.
But again, as an incredibly private person myself, I totally get it. In fact, that's how Kris and I often related. When I saw her our interactions were marked with a simple, knowing nod. No need for small talk or catching-up, just a nod. I knew she was cool with that nod. We were often on the same page, whether politically or artistically, which is why I was drawn to her.
Her sister described this phenomenon as Kris' silos. She had a journalism silo, family silo, artist/grad school silo, and who knows how many more silos out there.
So here is my eulogy to Kris from silo number three, the artist silo.
I got to know Kris best when we exhibited together in the UAE along with 10 other artists from UArts. That trip was a defining moment for us and brought us all incredibly close. Ten ridiculous and amazing days we all now share. Kris being an integral part of my memory of those days in Dubai and Sharjah.
Kris also curated a show while in school and asked me to be in it. Again, a knowing nod to me and my work, an acknowledgment and validation that I can never thank her enough for.
Kirs is the type of artist that I just fucking hate. She's not just good at making things, she is better at things I also aspire to do. Her work walked that thin, thin line between politics and aesthetics. It succeeded and set the bar so high.
Her work was political without being alienating, clever without being snarky, subtle without being obtuse. And it was always nice to look at; graceful and powerful, imposing and engrossing. She really knew how to make a visual statement much like how she interacted with me, with a simple, knowing nod.
Just imagine what she would have made in the new politically climate. Man, fuck fucking cancer.
I will be returning to Dubai again with those who went before, all of us asked to contribute work to a show honoring another incredible artist who passed away, Hassan Sharif. I'm sure Kris had something in mind to send but was interrupted by her illness.
Fuck cancer, by the way.
But I couldn't see this exhibit, essentially a sequel to our first trip, without Kris or her work. Her absence will be glaring. So I made something in her name (hope she doesn't mind). I couldn't begin to emulate her work, or succeed in making something that I could only assume she would have made. So I simply made reference to the work that she made for the first show which was a group of Mylar balloons with slinkies hanging from them, occupying an opening between two floors titled Trees of Liberty. Her statement about the work mentioned how humans so often get mulligans. My hope is that without seeing her name attached, people who knew her would recognize the mylar balloon I wrapped around a square piece of paper, and know that Kirs was there. Even though she doesn't get a mulligan.
I can't say it enough, fuck cancer.
Beyond the reference, I hope the work brings Kris to the exhibit. As the material is reflective people will see themselves in it, and see themselves in this new context that is missing Kris. Her presence will be felt, her memory will enter the viewer's mind and she won't be completely missing from the world. Her last mulligan perhaps.
And my last, knowing nod to a remarkable person.
Kris, I will do my best to make good art, and now that your silos are no longer isolated, keep your memory alive with the other incredible people so affected by your existence.
Mulligan (Kris Was Here)