He came upstairs early in the morning, crying. You had gone. With more grace than I could ever muster, perhaps, you had gone. We talked about your smile, the smell of oil paints in your studio, your silly laugh. My daughter was mesmerized with you when she met you last summer. Especially with the bright red scarf you wore every day. I will never forget the two of you playing together on your sofa. You were such fast friends.
I think I will miss your sense of humor the most. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t see you smiling. I loved your (often embellished) stories of growing up in Minnesota as a “farm kid”. I often wondered what it was like for you living in New York in your twenties, trying to make a living with your art. I remember watching choppy black and white video of ice sculptures and circuses, and wondering how those frail hands could ever create such things. Occasionally we talked of art, but generally not for very long before you told me I was being too serious, and you began telling silly stories again. You embodied hope and optimism and a fierce love of life I sometimes wish I had.
I remember walking the ranch in Sonoita, astonished at the beauty of the land, and more astonished at the house made of straw which you built for your beloved Dee. I remember thinking it was filled with such good energy, such love. It had the same warmth I felt near the oil paints in your studio. I don’t know if we ever told you we brought a cactus back to Portland from your ranch; a tiny barrel accidentally kicked up by careless hiking boots. It lived in our house for at least 5 years. You would have loved watching us get it through TSA at the airport. For your 100th birthday, you wore a crown, and held court. This was no different than normal, of course, except you rarely wore a crown. You were so happy that day, and I felt so blessed to be there.
And though you are gone, it is as though you are still here. You truly live through your art. It hangs in our home, in the homes of those you love, and in the homes of so many admirers of yours. I walk in the living room, and your “Colorado picture” (as I call it), wraps around me like a big old denim shirt. You are still here. And your legacy will be for us to remember the important things you taught us — how to create a remarkable life, and to never believe that you can’t accomplish something. If you imagine you can, you will. Thank you, Duane. We’ll miss you more than you know.
Duane “Dick” Bryers (July2, 1911 – May 30, 2012)