Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Bill Gilbert 1964 - 2008
"Portrait of Bill" , 28" x 36" ? Oil on Canvas, 1989
My dear friend, Bill Gilbert, passed away this Sunday, February 24th, after fighting a long battle with cancer.
Bill and I met our first day at RISD and became friends right away. We shared an apartment beginning our sophomore year and were pretty much inseparable. "The Frank and Bill Show". Bill was a Jewelry and Light Metals major and I was a Painter, but we always took pleasure in discussing each other's work and he always had something constructive and honest to say.
This is a portrait that I painted for Bill before I moved to Mexico. It pretty much says it all. He loved buying old cars and fixing them up. He loved old industrial buildings, later buying one in Philadelphia and converting it to living and studio space with his wife Maryanne. He almost always had on a brown leather jacket like in this painting of him parked in front of the old Providence Electric Company in Rhode Island.
Always up for an adventure or a road trip, Bill jumped at the chance to drive with me from Rhode Island to Mexico in 1990. He was always ready to hop in one of his old cars, put the top down, and just go "cruising".
Bill loved anything old and gritty. He was a big fan of flea markets, antiques and dare I say, dumpster diving and trash picking on those days when Providence households would put out larger items for the trash collectors. He was a Jeweler and Metal smith by trade. Besides making his art, he ran a business repairing antique metal of any sort. Always willing to help others, he taught jewelry and metal work at several Philadelphia area colleges. Bill's jewelery and sculptures had a style that was all his own. Isn't that what all of us artists hope to achieve? There was an honesty to his work, his personality shined through in everything that he made.
Bill and Maryanne have three children, Tyler, Max and Sofie. Although our lives grew apart over the years, I know that he was a great Dad and Husband. A talk on the phone with Bill would always last an hour or more. Dyslexia kept him from becoming a big email communicator like I have become, so a call from Bill was always a special thing. I am grateful to his wife for emailing updates on their struggle to all of us that live so far away.
Maryanne was a pillar of strength for Bill throughout his struggle. I don't know how anyone could handle all of the ups and downs of surgery, chemo, tests, doctor visits, caring for Bill plus caring for the kids, run a house, continue with her job and still keep a positive attitude. I see why Bill loved her so much.
How does someone begin to organize memories of someone so important in their lives? All of those burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches and fries in "The Pit" at RISD. Late night trips down to the "Silver Top Diner" or Sunday mornings spent with a big stack and coffee at one of the other greasy spoons around Rhode Island. There were late night drives up to Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire at any time of year. Water skiing, driving on frozen lakes and hoping the car would not go through the ice, trips to Block Island. There are the ups and downs we had with assignments and crits throughout our years at RISD. The many late late nights of working hard to get assignments in on time. His stacks of Easy Rider and Heavy Metal magazines. There are so many more stories and so many memories. Is there a way to organize memories, or is the beauty of memories the way in which they just randomly pop into your head at the most opportune moments?
Bill had the biggest smile, and the biggest heart, of anyone that I have ever known. He was truly loved, and will be missed by all.