There are few times where I am genuinely homesick, and even fewer times that I miss my birth country. That said, the hardest part of expatriating has always been missing people. Without a doubt new technologies have aided in this by leaps and bounds over the past four years, but there is no skype substitute for a hug from Sean Gaulager, a critical conversation with Jaime Castillo, the sarcasm of Austin Nelsen, the theory over drinks with Andy Campbell and Noah Simblist, or the energy of Margaret Meehan. Over all, Austin has so much to offer in the talent and creativity of its young artists, collaborators, and curators that its an exciting place where one is able to create their own opportunities with incredible enthusiasm from the community.
In the four years that I lived in Austin I was exceedingly lucky and grateful to be a part of that community that was open to ideas and experimentation. Taking advantage of opportunities was easy, and at times overwhelming. Watching the community grow, expand and even—at times—collapse around us simply contributed to creating the tight knit group of talented individuals that we have. Separating reality from “art world” became incredibly difficult after three years, and in the fourth it was next to impossible. We all collaborated together, we got drunk together, we opened spaces together, we maintained spaces together, and in 2011 we all protested together.
Last night I was perusing facebook for the last time before going to sleep when the vague news of Mark Aguhar’s passing began to spread slowly around midnight. I can’t say that I knew Mark well. Actually, I can only account for a handful of conversations with him, but even in these conversations his fierceness was obvious. He was a force, and I never really knew how to approach him or how to handle him, so I just sat back and watched as his energy infected everyone around him with a deep love and respect, that is felt through all the facebook posts from the friends and ties he has beginning in Texas, and spreading across the country.
The news of his passing was a shock to me. As facebook feeds began pouring in, my heart went out to the community that we all worked so hard to build. Even though Mark had left Austin for Chicago, his presence was still felt in the community by all of those that had worked with him, gone to undergrad at UT with him, and those who have since moved on to other things in other cities. It became obvious how deeply we had all been connected through our work, and a deep sense of distance swept over me.
I am proud of my art community, proud of the work we have all done to build it and sustain it through adversity, and I will always be connected to it no matter where I am. Today, however, I am homesick for Austin and for the passing of a wonderful member of our community.
Mark, you will always be fabulous.