Monday, November 8, 2010

It was a triumphant, very early morning despite a comedy of errors. Generosity among friends found joy despite inconveniences. I cam home content, and to a wife who said she was proud of me. I then cleaned up what needed care, and before taking a nap, read emails.    

Dear Colleagues,

I am saddened to inform you that our community has lost a wonderful and important teacher, writer and friend. Last night, Adjunct Associate Professor Kathryn Hixson passed away suddenly in her home. We are unaware of the details surrounding her death but have watched Kathryn battle serious disease over the last few years.

Kathryn was one the most distinguished art critics in Chicago. Her writings on the histories of conceptual and neo-conceptual art constituted important contributions to the field. She was very attentive to new and emerging artists in Chicago and around the world, and championed these artists through her writing, curating, and lectures. Indeed many of you benefited from her close advising and guidance, and many of you were fortunate enough to have her keen insights of your work noted in the public record through her many reviews in the New Art Examiner, Arts Magazine, FlashArt, and others. Kathryn's role as Associate editor, then Senior Editor, and finally Editor of the New Art Examiner in the nineties demonstrated her commitment to not only the value of open reporting on the arts and culture, but to a Chicago presence in the international field of art criticism.

Kathryn did her MFA at the school and subsequently taught here since 1988. Her courses in art history, fiber and material studies, and new arts journalism, as well as her constant work as a graduate advisor in the MFA program gave much to the students and to the community at large. She was in the midst of completing her PhD dissertation at the University of Texas at Austin while continuing to teach at the school and write criticism.

Kathryn was a serious critic and scholar. But many of us also know how Kathryn liked to play. She loved to laugh, to party, to art world gossip, and to giddily dwell in a world of ideas about love, music, art, and politics. Kathryn was unafraid of strong opinion--really she was charmingly indignant. Her fortitude and her friendship will be greatly missed. We mourn the passing of our dear Kathryn Hixson.

Lisa Wainwright
Dean of Faculty
School of the Art Institute of Chicago

A piece of my heart fell away, as if the Valentine maintained its symmetry but no longer came to a point.

The letter above says much about Kathryn. She was about my age. We talked freely, drank heartily, danced wildly, and shared many sentiments about the world of art by which we found ourselves passionately driven. She bummed the occasional smoke. My art appeared in her periodical, The New Art Examiner, more than once. It was also in that magazine my first essays on art were published.  As an editor, she found encouragement more useful than a chainsaw. She once said a piece I had written was too long and I threatened to rewrite it as free verse. When she did not push back, I acquiesced.

The New Art Examiner was notorious for not paying its writers on time. A shoestring operation, it nevertheless was the pre-eminent art periodical in the Midwest, and recognized as a low-budget peer to the bigger national magazines like Art in America, Art News and Sculpture. This was largely Kathryn’s doing, and I suppose it was because of this, and just because it was for Kathryn, writers continued to write for her. We all hoped that something more would come of the magazine.

As someone with considered opinions and an editorial advocacy, it may not come as a surprise that Kathryn had her detractors, especially in those who saw themselves as heroic artists demanding a place in the Pantheon. For Kathryn, ego had no place in the realm of creative ideas and endeavors.

The magazine did try to break out to a wider distribution, and burned in that quest. The hole left has never adequately been filled. Shortly thereafter, I moved away from Chicago. Kathryn left as well, and I lost touch with her. It was only recently that I found her again through Facebook, and from the sole picture of her there I knew something had drastically changed. Some inquiries told me that she had been battling cancer, but that she was recovering. I have thought to write her on several occasions. Better than about her, but now too late.

1 comment:

Memphis MOJO said...

We all have to die, but she died too early.

She once said a piece I had written was too long and I threatened to rewrite it as free verse. When she did not push back, I acquiesced.

Sounds like she knew how to get what she wanted.