January 8, 2012

a sad day now

Jan Groover was the first person who taught me to see.
I read today that she died on January 1, 2012.
She was my teacher and mentor in college. She was the first person who taught me to trust my vision. The first person who made me feel like what I had to say as an artist was worthwhile. When she asked me to house sit for them during christmas break I felt like it was the highest honor. She and her husband Bruce  lived on the Bowery in a huge loft that was tucked between restaurant supply stores. It was pretty sketchy at night but I didn't mind. In their living room they had floor to ceiling photographs by Weegee, Walker Evans and countless others. She had a darkroom and a still life studio. Bruce had his own painting studio.It was an artist's playground.It was so foreign to me. One night me and John Tremblay, ( another house sitter at times), cooked shrimp scampi with pasta (what we considered to be a sophisticated dish), acting as if their home was ours, playing at being artist, even though we already were and just didn't know it ( or I didn't know it). Their art was their lives. One time she hired me to help her out in the studio and while we were going through some prints, I accidently called her Mom. A freudian slip but also, she was my artistic mother, guiding me through an artistic life, nudging me without force. Throughout the years she hired me to make prints for her. At the time I was nothing but grateful, as I still am, but now I wonder, " why did she hire me?" " I couldn't have been that great a printer? I like to think she saw something in me. I hope she did. She and Bruce sold off their photos and moved to a house in rural France. We stayed in touch for awhile. Sometimes I would print for her when she came back to the states.
She got sick. Stomach cancer? I  never really knew. I did know that she smoked a lot( remember her buying stakes of merits at Purchase?), enjoyed food and drink. They didn't have kids so their lives were for themselves it seemed.

For years, I would write to her apologizing for not taking pictures. She finally pointed it out to me explaining that it just doesn't matter what I do. Her lack of disappointment in me was such a relief. In 2004 we moved upstate. I had asked our neighbors across the street to check in on our dog when we needed  to be away for a long day.  I went over to drop of our keys and the first thing I saw, upon entering their home, was a photograph by Jan. The couple had been her students the first year she taught at SUNY Purchase. It was so comforting to know that wherever I went, Jan would somehow always be with me. I expect it to take a while for the knowledge that she is gone to sink in. I think about her all the time. In every piece of art that I make.  I've mentioned her here, here and here. We weren't in touch these last 5 years or so but I know that she's always been with me. I wish I had written that last letter. I wish there was one last time. I can't believe your not here anymore.


  1. margot,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts about jan.
    and it's so true....
    i don't think there's a day that's gone by since our days at suny-purchase that i haven't reflected on something she'd taught us, or saw something in a jan influenced way, or wanted to ask someone "and what did you have for breakfast...", or wondered what jan was thinking about x or y political situation etc etc.
    so glad to see you're still making art.
    [@madaecnerwal on twitter]

  2. Hey Margot, I share your feelings. I always credit learning how to make art to Jan and the space she created in class. She really allowed us to see. That foundation has supported me in all of my art making since, I would be lost with out it.

  3. thank you both for reading. It's a bit mind boggling how much she influenced so many of us. I'm trying so desperately to remember all the things she said, but I think that maybe the important part is even if I can't remember the words, I remember the ideas so viscerally.

  4. This is so beautifully written, Margot. She sounds like a wonderful person. A college teacher I greatly admired died a few yrs ago and I was amazed the more I thought about it, just what an influence he had had and has on my thinking about art and viewing the world as a whole. A great teacher can change a person's life. This is such a lovely tribute to your teacher and friend. A studio on the Bowery and then a move to rural France, she crafted a nice & interesting life!