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Reflecting on the

passing of two

exceptional artists

To the Editor:

With the passing of two treasured artists in the last month, I’ve taken to reflecting on Louis Kollmeyer and Merrily Tompkins’ impact on our community. Their passing so close together had me thinking about not just their individual, wonderful lives, but their lives as artists.

Early in an artist’s career, so much work is produced as they try to find their voice and learn to master new materials. As a ceramicist in my student years, I discarded at least a ton of clay in my trail, no exaggeration. If lucky, I found friends of my parents who might contribute to my European adventure in exchange for the super large, ridiculously heavy, but completely worth a college education, Jomon-inspired vessels. But as an artist’s voice is refined through the making and thinking and dialogue that ensues, the work becomes more and more precious.

In the last month we lost two artists whose work equally, though distinctly, offered us those moments of clarity, insight and/or pause. Last Sunday on April 15, my husband and I learned of the passing of Louis Kollmeyer, our neighbor and constant inspiration. Up until 102 years of age (he was 103 when he passed), he was next door, often late at night, moving his paintings around, no doubt making some adjustments to one of his 100 plus canvases.

Over the weekend, we learned of the passing of Merrily Tompkins. It was seemingly just moments ago that Merrily was joyfully howling with that twinkle in her eye at a friend’s full moon party. The same twinkle and shine was omnipresent in the joyful, whimsical and wonderfully clever works that she created from metal and various found objects she picked up on her adventures.

I often saw Louis’ spirit of his naval commitment to our country captured in his work, but also, in my opinion, the emotion and possible tumult of being a sailor. Look at those choppy waters he recalled on board the naval ship. Was that what was reflected in his heart too? Merrily’s immediately quirky but smart metal masterpieces gave us all insight to humanity and then made us chuckle, maybe in the same breath.

I am sad they are gone, I am glad they lived and created and left their respective legacies for us to enjoy. For emerging artists, take note, make, create and leave the legacy that is yours.

Ars longa, vita brevis.

Monica Miller

Executive Director, Gallery One Visual Arts Center, Ellensburg

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