I was in Al Merola's in Ptown tonight for the opening of Jim Balla's show of new paintings, and I asked Al if he had seen Michael Mazur at all. The day before I had driven by Mazur's home and studio and had peered in through the gate hoping to get a glimpse of him. Almost under his breath Al whispered that he had died last Tuesday. Some things you just never get used to. Even though I knew he was really sick, hearing that someone has come and gone is a blow.
I first saw Mazur's work in 1972. He had a show in the Lamont Gallery at Exeter where I was a senior and a painter. Having spent some considerable portion of my life in New England on and off since then, there were always two big guns who lived and worked and belonged to the region(not New York artists with a place in Vermont). They were Gregory Gillespie and Michael Mazur. They made being an artist up here seem possible. They made living and working outside New York and actually being a fulfilled artist and having a bright light seem definitely possible. Of course, they were the exception, and of course, they were exceptional. They also made it true. They made it ok for the rest of us who for one reason or another lived here too.
Never mind that here, Boston, or New England, didn't treat Michael Mazur that well. That is understood. It doesn't treat anyone well. That is part of its charm. He might have been a big shot somewhere else. He might have been celebrated. Here he was just someone else. Last Tuesday he died, and I just happened to hear about it late Friday.
I always liked his work, and thought he was under appreciated. Important arts people in Boston begrudged him his due. I'm not sure why. Maybe because they thought he was someone who made his mark as a printmaker first. Maybe they thought that he tried to come in the back door that way. I don't know. It doesn't matter. I liked his paintings more. Yankees prize craft and skill, so he made his mark early on as, yes, a printmaker, but since it allowed him an entrance, but not a proper entre, he just never fully arrived.
Ptown was and is different, of course. He was a well respected artist here and last year shared the cover of Provincetown Arts with his wife, the poet,Gail Mazur. That is also telling, that last part.
Nature, the landscape, figured into Mazur's work on some level, no matter how abstract, even if it was just a sense of place. Maybe that was the reason he lived up here. Or maybe it was because, as he told me more than once, that he preferred writers to artists, and let's face it, New England is very writer friendly. Inotherwords he felt about people who did what he did pretty pretty much the same way everyone else around here does.
I didn't share Mazur's antipathy for artists, so it is with a certain ironic fondness, fondness that he apparently never knew, that I salute him, thank him, and bid him farewell. Good speed!
-- Post From My iPhone