Phone book of the dead

Gust Vasiliades
April 10, 01965 – February 21, 02004

Today a candle is burning in my makeshift window shrine for Gust. It’s been four years since he passed. I woke at dawn that morning and sat straight up. It was bright and cloudless. His passing came the same moments but I wouldn’t know until the night. Deathwatch over several months had no effect on a delusion he would recover and did not visit him the night before. It was raining and was tired after the day, and transferred to a line towards home instead. I know my heart said goodbye on my last visit some days before.

I only knew Gust for a few years. He is forever dubbed my first artist. When I curated my first show, as the last show for the gallery I co-founded, he was the first artist to respond to the call for submissions. Even with a full time schedule then, I worked an artists schedule well into early morning hours for months. Gust called around midnight one night and we talked well over two hours. His personality was such that we were already friends and collaborators—and they are not easy to come by, or replace in creative endeavors. He shared openly about his work, his photography, his curating, his life in Gotham—back when it was interesting and creativity was raw and thriving. He shared his advice and insights. He supported fledgling artists and curators like myself. He worked outside the blue chip Gotham art establishment like myself. This helps alleviate some of the politicking linked to the process, but not all of it; the show was riddled with it. Gust, as well as my partner were rocks through that time. Without their support, the show and two subsequent shows within the year would not have opened. Gust and his partner, M, were always the first to arrive on submission days—when few other artists would. For the third show Gust and M drove through cold and rain on his old BMW motorcycle to be at the opening—staying from start to close and through the late and long dinner and toast afterwords. How does one not keep somewhere some forever indebtedness to folks like them.

During those few years with Gust, his story with M ran somewhat parallel with my partner and mine. Gust and I met for drinks at Liebowitz’ bar one night—for talk of the next show, art, and life in general. I remember it must have been a warmer night in January. We both wore lighter jackets and Marcel as usual was tucked inside his. The air was damp but not heavy. We didn’t know of the heavy we each would share walking down the street. He put them cheerfully in terms of dolphins and turtles. The turtles move and grow slowly, and research has little concern to move beyond the knife to resect. But a few months and my caretaking for the turtle would be finished. But spot on per delayed diagnosis and its statistic, in about twenty-two months his dolphin would cease to swim. Research for rare dolphins as his, at the time was only beginning to pick up, by the grace of pet projects of a few doctors, and through happy accident of off label prescription use.

I am selfish in writing this for Gust. I miss his collaboration and support. I suppose I tap this as a last collaborative effort, though its creativity is sorely lacking. But I am long overdue to give him good words in a formal sense. And M. I hope you are well. I hope you are living with joy. You deserve only that for what you went through, with Gust then your father. How many bricks fell on all of us then.

In life the seat a person occupies at your table remains empty when they are gone.



The phone book of the dead is literally just that. It emerged to be a gallery installation where folks could write names and numbers from our own phone books where over the years we find some folks are no more. We cannot cross them out because inside of us we do not cross the person out. From the phone book of the dead we wonder if the numbers are dialed from some cosmic telephone, would we be connected to the person once more.

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