Sunday, January 31, 2016

RIP David Quammen

David Quammen passed away yesterday... Some eloquent words about this fixture of the DMV art scene by DMV art critic and artist Kevin Mellema, and at the bottom a painting of Quammen by DMV uber artist Erik Sandberg.
RIP ... We lost Dave today... Folks outside the DC arts community won't know him, but Dave was... Dave was.... well, Dave was Dave.

To say the least, Dave was a unique character. He didn't leave any gas in the tank when he left. We should all be so inspired. 
He entered our lives when he became a figure model posing around the DC area. Later on, he took over the MOCA gallery in Georgetown. 
After years spent around him, there certainty will be no shortage of Dave stories to tell. His epic battles with the MOCA landlord became city wide PR battles gone wild that spilled over into the City Paper. .... They alone were worth the price of admission. This photo, as an example, was done in the midst of one such skirmish. 
But my favorite Dave tale comes from his modeling days before all that.. He was a tenacious model that simply would not give up on a pose no matter how bad it hurt to go on holding it. ...
One night he was on the model stand with another model who had her back to him. She took a fairly simple standing pose, while Dave took a semi-reclining pose akin to the 'Dying Gaul' from the Parthenon... His entire weight held up by one arm for 20 minutes.
Somewhere towards the middle of that, it started to wear on him. Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, but Dave wouldn't spit it out no matter what. It was a point of pride with him, and we all respected and appreciated such.
Everybody has their limits, and clearly Dave was in well over his head on this one... .. A few more minutes ticked by, and Dave's arm started to give it up for him... By the end of the twenty minutes the entire modeling stand was shaking rapidly from the considerable muscle spasms in Dave's arm.
The buzzer went off, and his torture ended. He sat up, his torso beet red, flush with blood from the exertion. Wiped out, he sat there trying to regain his breath and composure before the call for a new pose... When the other model turned around and said to him... "That wasn't so bad!"... It was a classic line. Couldn't have been more contrast between the average model, and Dave's efforts. Nobody put it all on the line the way he would.
He went on to run MOCA with the same no holds barred gusto....
Underneath the outrageous antics, and occasional irascible episodes, Dave was a genuinely kind and generous man. He prided himself on making MOCA an equal opportunity place for all comers. The art world hates that sort of thing, but Dave stuck to his guns to the bitter end. In some fundamental way, the people were more important to him than the art. He was a curator of people. Nobody could put together a wild collection of people the way Dave could....
It's common to hear people eulogized as 'unique' and 'irreplaceable'. In Dave's case, it's all true. In fact, it's simply unthinkable that we'll see the likes of him again in our lifetimes...
Dave made the DC art scene more colorful, and less buttoned-down boring. We often take **art** as some deathly serious affair. Dave was having none of that, he was all about having fun with it.
We could all do well to remember such, and carry a bit of that with us going forward.... God speed Dave.
                                                                           - Kevin Mellema

Anger. Oil on Canvas, 2009 by Erik Thor Sandberg