On June 11, I went to the opening reception of the retrospective art show of one of my dearest friends, Andy Fausz. Andy passed away unexpectedly Nov 10, 2012, at the young age of 36. I still cannot believe that he is gone forever and am deeply saddened every time I think of him.
Walking inside the gallery, and being surrounded by all his artwork, my heart sank and I felt a distressing emptiness in my stomach and a painful knot in my throat.
Andy’s beautiful, large and colorful paintings covered the walls of the gallery, each like a transparent glass revealing his truthful self through his raw yet sophisticated imagery, his recurrent symbols, elaborate visual vocabulary and scattered scribbled writings. Each of Andy’s pieces, complex in its structure and in its elements, coalesced, unified, to unfold part of his story and of his life.
Infused with his contradictory feelings and emotions, Andy’s imagery is filled with pain, unwanted anger, tenderness, love, peacefulness and happy dreams.
A sacred heart, reminiscent of the same tattooed image he had on his chest, populates many of his works, alluding to goodness in general, and more personally, to the good within himself; other symbols include a sheep, representative of innocence and vulnerability; and floating little houses and flowers, messengers of hope.
Many also include images of fish swimming in all directions, as if trying to find their way among the disparate components of his composition. They are a reference to his tormented search for a meaningful and unobstructed path to his lost and unsettled condition. They also serve as a tender look back to the many fishing trips Andy enjoyed as a child with his family, trips equated in his memory with moments of happiness, of loving and harmonious connectedness.
And in each and every painting, whether here or there, clear or partially hidden in the background, one can find the picture of his daughter Viola, only 3 years old when he died and who had become the center of his life; also of her mother Sheila, bitter sweet due to the conflicted relationship they had fighting over child custody, despite his unwavering love for her; and of himself, omnipresent, naked, truthful and vulnerable, lost in his new world, unable to understand what was happening to him, and why.
In the last few of years of his life, Andy grew bitter with the legal system, spending inordinate time and money in family courts trying to prove that he was a good person and father and that he had the right to unobstructed and plentiful time with his growing daughter. His art became his voice as he tried to call attention to the judicial disparity and his perception of the unjust and insensitive treatment of fathers.
At first glance Andy’s art can be compared to that of Basquiat. Like Basquiat’s, his art is raw, immediate, rich in emotions, hitting the viewer directly from off the surface of the canvas. Despite its faux naif drawings, it is sophisticated in its composition and in the consistent narrative it tells through its hidden and sometimes seemingly uncoordinated elements, through its many visual references often needing careful observation to be discovered. Andy’s art, with all its apparent contradictions, always converges to reflect his various mind conditions, his beliefs, his moral values, his emotions, his thoughts and messages… His work emerges from his inner well and truthful self and, with authenticity, speaks of his soul and reflects on his life. Andy is thus a truly engaged artist whose art mirrors him as a person; as a result his art is universal and impactful and will continue to make a difference.
At one point during the opening reception, I stood looking at Andy’s self portrait. Next to me stood his father, Drew, sobbing.
“This is my beautiful son, but he is gone forever.”
I looked around the gallery and the only consolation I could think of was that Andy’s voice is and will remain alive through his powerful artwork, and that his truthfulness, honesty and strength of feelings and emotions will always be there, speaking of him, for him and to and for others.
Andy, however, will be sorely missed as a great person, a wonderful friend, a powerful talented artist. I will always keep close to my heart his genuineness, honesty, tolerance, forgiveness and his beautiful values for a better world. He told me once:
“Our world has a lot of pain, destruction, problems. We need though to work out our differences and make the earth a better place for all.”
His message will always accompany me.
His mother Rosanne, father Drew, brother Scott, daughter Viola and the many relatives and friends who have known him, most certainly miss Andy all the time. His time on earth was short but he has left behind a delicate and sensitive fragrance that will always be savored, beautiful images that will reaffirm him forever.
One of Andy’s very touching mixed media paintings, “Sweet V,” represents, in the background, his daughter Viola, sleeping peacefully, unaware of the tension that he and her mother were having at the time. It was Andy’s will to see her always happy and in peace, also contributing the same to the world. His daughter Viola will hopefully continue to add to his vibrant voice and thus will perpetuate his beautiful legacy.
** Andy Fausz’s retrospective art show, Trials and Tribulations, can be seen at the Philip M. Meyers Jr Memorial Gallery, UC Main Street, on UC Main Campus, until August 2, 2015, Sunday to Thursday, 10am – 5pm