the worst news possible came almost right after i got online this morning: flo mcgarrell, the director at the fosaj gallery in jacmel, died under the rubble of the supposed ‘peace of mind’ hotel, which along with many other buildings, had collapsed. he died tuesday evening.
flo was about my age, and had made — had probably just begun to make, actually — some of the most impressive, curious, and forthright art, visual and beyond, that i’ve seen in a while.
not to mention, he was a great person. a good person. i could tell that 10 minutes after he sat down at the table on the veranda at oloffson and was talking to his right in creole, to his left in english. it was as if he knew everyone there and everyone knew him. as one of my new friends and flo’s longtime friend, godfather, and fellow artist put it to me on facebook today: “Flo McGarrell was a sage from the best that got the best from all of us…everyone loved Flo boundlessly.”
i’m not sure if i’m sad, shaken, shocked, or simply pissed off. flo was in a word, awesome. flo was a superstar, in the most literal sense. and it was his lack of pretension — boundless enthusiasm, generosity, and wisdom, all bundled into a quirky, lovable, almost childlike presence — that drew people to him and, like barnaby wrote, brought out the “them” in them, the best in them.
other news reports have painted a grim, sad picture of jacmel, once gorgeous in that it harbored a lot of original colonial buildings, but today in ruins. i have tons of pictures of the studios and artists behind the paper-mache carnival masks; now, instead of celebration, should i post them in memorium? i wonder if tektek, my guide and overall nice guy, survived. he lived on the hillside, outside of town by an hour’s walk, with his two small kids and his aging mother. and if yes, how will he make a living if his studio has been toppled, and worse, all his masks-in-process destroyed and/or damaged?
here’s an excellent Q&A with flo from the art21 blog from last summer. and a few pics of FOSAJ gallery, now probably in pieces.