Woody Vasulka b. 1937, The Art of Memory, 1987; Multi media, 00:36:30; Courtesy of the artist

Woody Vasulka b. 1937, The Art of Memory, 1987; Multi media, 00:36:30; Courtesy of the artist

Rest in Peace Woody Vasulka

Monday, December 23, 2019

Sad news of the passing of Woody Vasulka. The pioneer and ultimate experimenter of electronic arts, who along with artist wife, Steina, transformed the understanding of media arts to generations of art lovers, artists, critics and scholars. The Burchfield Penney was fortunate to have worked with this most congenial man when we exhibited what many believe to be his masterpiece Art of Memory in 2014. Visiting the Vasulkas, whether it was to discuss something we were doing with Woody or Steina, was always a trip. Woody would make his famous “Cowboy Coffee” and talk about politics, art, the southwest, mushroom hunting and of course his recent experiments with and Steina. The recollections of his work with every media artist one could imagine was humbling. Eventually, he or Steina would pull an image or find a video or lead us to some camera or screen past an archive that would make most museums envious. On one visit with Scott Propeack, we enter the massive collection and spent hours going through a myriad of objects and as the coffee wore off Woody sat us down and brought other libations and conversations to the table. Before too long, Woody announced that we had a deal with The Art of Memory exhibition. Neither Scott nor I really understood what that meant, but we were confident that Woody did, so we shook hands kissed Steina and walked to our car as Woody helped us back out of the driveway. What I remember most was looking at Scott and saying “that house is one long experiment.”

The last time I saw Woody was in Iceland with my wife, Camille, for an opening of the Vasulka Chamber in the National Gallery of Iceland. It was a wonderful acquisition presented with great eloquence and care full of information for generations to study their legacy. There were presentations, dinners and a reception at the president’s house. Camille and I were standing with Woody and a pal of his and as the president was speaking. Woody kept questioning and commenting on various things he thought were being said. It was impossible not to laugh. Those playful images of Woody that night will last forever in my memory. We will all miss him, but we are better people for having known him.

Rest In Peace Brother

Don Metz, director of public programming