Dear All at the Studio,
On the anniversary of Mr. Aso’s passing, I send my belated love and condolences. I was shocked to discover the notice of Mr. Aso’s memorial service last year a month after the fact, unopened, buried under a pile of papers. I was so sorry I hadn’t known he was sick, and sorry I wasn’t able to attend the celebration of his life. The articles and tributes were beautiful. I am grateful you all gave him such devoted support and such a fitting send-off.
The importance of Mr. Aso and the Studio in my life is hard to express. It was a magical, passionate, challenging, sometimes exasperating time and place. He led me, and allowed me to learn to lead; taught me, and encouraged me to teach. It felt so natural, to fall into this family of artists, musicians, poets, and philosophers who shared my innate drive as an artist to seek beauty, to follow “nature and temptation.” How lucky I was he/you were there.
Food played a major role in our bliss. Forgive me, Gary, but I have to share this memory from when we were roommates in J.P. I woke up at 3:oo a.m. one night after dreaming of barbeque. I followed my nose downstairs to find young Gary Tucker kicking back with a juicy steak, a glass of Cognac and a fine cigar, a la Kaji Aso. And midnight trips to Chinatown for whole fish in black bean sauce, traipsing through the streets of the North End for cannolli and espresso afterward. Lobsters at Bruce’s down the Cape. Bernard’s magnificent feasts . Of course, grilled octopus every December. Motley crew crammed around the little kitchen table every Thursday. The cracked yellow coffee pot. Oh God—Indian Thanksgiving at Katie’s.
I shared a sublime Italian dinner alone with Mr. Aso in a little restaurant he discovered in London. Once, in the house in Hampstead, London, Mr. Aso cooked me a hamburger (no mad cow jokes—the beef, he wanted me to know, was so much more flavorful than ours—and it was).
Mr Aso cooking for me, and serenading me, were special moments. A carful of us were headed for the Berkshires for a Tanglewood weekend at Eugene’s family house. It was very late, dark, and our usual witty sarcastic banter died down as we nodded off. Gently, Mr. Aso began singing The Tennessee Waltz—sweet strains in the fragrant night air. But nothing compared with the times I was painting on the third floor in the wee hours after an opening-- hot summer nights with the windows wide open to the swelter, or in winter with snow tapping on the glass, when from the gallery the most beautiful harmonies would rise up to me—Mr. Aso and Gary practicing the duets from The Pearl Fishers, the most sublime melodies I had ever heard.
Underlying it all was the simple fulfillment of gathering around hydrangeas or tulips; laughing, chatting, then settling into quiet concentration with our pencils or brushes, forgetting time, in the zone together.
I was grateful then and still am today. Thank you all for keeping the studio flourishing—I’m not being maudlin when I say the studio’s existence still gives me strength, inspiration and support. I hope someday I will be able to contribute again in a direct way.
With much love,