Sunday, November 3, 2019

84. Marie Thurman. 1955–2019

Preparing for a trip to Europe, I vaguely thought about my friend, the artist  Marie Thurman, whom I hadn't heard from or seen for years. Just as vaguely, I thought to myself that I must get in touch. Then, embroiled in general inefficiency and procrastination, work, and prep for the class I teach as an adjunct lecturer, I went about my life.

•   •   •

When I met Marie Thurman in the early 1980s, she was the wife (or girlfriend) of an architect who worked in the same firm as my boyfriend at the time. Just as my boyfriend Jeff hit it off with Bruce Thurman, I hit it off with Marie. Bruce and Marie lived on Elizabeth Street in Soho in Manhattan, when the apartments on Elizabeth Street were anything but fancy and Soho was still dirty and affordable for artists.

At some point, Marie and Bruce moved back to Paris, where Jeff and I visited. When Jeff and I broke up, I visited with my sister Claire. A stay with Marie and Bruce in their Paris loft was a taste of la vie bohème, full of art and trips on their motorcycles and at least one fleamarket. On one visit, Marie and Bruce had a cake party—which involved a lot of sweets (uh, cake!) and a lot of philosophical conversation which I wouldn't have followed even if the conversation were in English.

Marie painted and, in addition to her canvases, made beautiful jewelry. Like her abstract paintings, her jewelry were wearable pieces of abstract art which showed Marie's love of color.  At one point, in the mid-1980s,  I was her "agent" in New York, selling her jewelry to boutiques and to acquaintances. A friend who worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art helped me introduce/sell the work to a lot of museum colleagues.

At one point, I hosted a party for Marie and her work, which Marie thought would include art agents. It was an okay party, but my connections weren't super strong or helpful. I felt I'd failed Marie.

When pregnant with Justine, Marie stayed with me in my fifth-floor walkup for a day or two until, not too comfy, she went to the West Village to stay with her friends Alberta and Robert. I felt I'd let her down by not having too comfy a home.

But we kept in touch—or, mostly, Marie did. One point when Alberta visited Marie in Paris, Marie sent Alberta home with a large, warm wool shawl for me. At another point, I heard from Marie's husband Nicolas, who wanted to have a drink and say hello at Marie's urging. (I figured out that Bruce was no longer Marie's husband; Nicolas was lovely.)

Marie and Nicolas visited New York a few times. Marie put Justine in touch with me. Marie and Justine came to Tarrytown to visit one Sunday (I was amused that Marie brought fancy tea, which seemed more London than Paris, but I was tickled that Marie and Justine visited).

Continued to paint, made jewelry, painted fabric, painted ceramics—sold at Bergdorf Goodman. Bon Marché, and stores in Japan and enjoyed lots of press—and sped through life creating so many different kinds of beautiful work.

The last time, I think, that I saw Marie was when she was in town and treated Kathy, a Francophile friend from dance who goes to Paris a lot and who'd become friendly with Marie, to a drink. She refused to let us treat her.

•   •   •

A few days after Pat and I returned from our trip, we went to our dance class, where Kathy (our dance friend) said she receives many email announcements about cultural events in Paris but a recent one troubled her because the email was about an exhibit of work by Marie Thurman, who "nous a quittés," which is bad news in French. I had heard nothing. My dance friend said the email came from William Thurman, who, I realized, had to be Marie's son. I emailed William, whom I'd never met (although I'd met Justine a few times), introduced myself and asked if the information on the email was indeed what it seemed. William replied right away, saying that his mother got very sick last February, learned she had liver cancer, and despite chemo and her fight, passed away peacefully in May, 2019. The exhibit, William wrote that "we are doing our best to pay our homage to her life and work with this exhibition."

Bad at pursuing many things, I kick myself for losing touch, for not sending at least a holiday card consistently every year. Although I normally don't post about people on Facebook or Instagram (shyness extending to social media?), I posted a photo and shots of Marie's earrings on Instagram. I thought the post would also, in a small way, pay tribute to a small part of Marie's work and personality. A number of thoughtful condolence comments make me fear the post was more selfish than homage. It is about my loss, but it isn't. And I feel funny implying that the post is about my loss, although it is.

More importantly, though, is the fact that a vibrant, magnetic, warm, talented woman whom I met when I was in my very early thirties and defined talent and energy and art is no longer physically on this earth. Marie's work is still viewable on her website.

Thank you, Marie. If there's a place to which you're traveling, Godspeed. In the meantime, you live on in your work and energy and vibrance.

•   •  •

As I write this, on the radio is playing, "What'll I do when you are far away and I am blue, what'll I do?" I imagine all friendship is a romance, some of which luckily deepens as years go by. Our romance was that of young people having great chemistry and mutual appreciation, the intense romance that women have and admit to having, a falling in love of sorts. (Of course I loved her for mistakenly thinking I looked like Ava Gardner). I'm so sorry—selfishly—that I didn't get to bid Marie farewell.

•   •  •

Photos are from the early 1980s, mid 1980s, and 2003.

(Should have posted October 2, 2019; posted on November 2)

No comments: