What it means to be a teacher…
I’m so thankful to have met Jon as a student. Through our various talks, he really encouraged me to value my ideas and not be afraid of doing work that was different. He always encouraged me to put my name on my work and be proud of it.
Looking back, I’m amazed: Jon never made me feel uncomfortable for being an eccentric student. Jon was critical without the criticism; he never made me feel bad (even though some of my work was BAD). True, Jon did have his own ideas, and was thoughtful and progressive — but he never burst anyone’s creative bubble.
Jon, I believe he showed me what it really means to be a teacher. And not just any teacher, a teacher to art and design students. Thank you Jon… Cornish won’t be the same without you. I hope we can carry your memory not only in our hearts, but also in how we teach and work and create.
Sunset during Hurricane Cafe gathering
I was not able to attend the gathering, but Jon was certainly on my mind. This is the sunset that was occurring in Seattle during the gathering.
With much love and respect, Bridget
Hurricane Café gathering. Fond thoughts in Jon’s favorite setting.
1 - Design coordinator Brian Kennedy, H&S professor Kim MacKay, VisComm instructor David Kendall
2 - Professor Claudia Meyer-Newman and Maureen Hoffmann.
3 - Friends of Jon from the Seattle public arts community
4 - Theater and Performance Production faculty (L-to-R) Rick MacKenzie, Karen Gjelsteen, John Wilson, Jeff Robbins
5 - Group photo (L-to-R) Kim MacKay, his wife Jenny, interiors alum Mary Berdan, interiors instructor Marisa Mangum, facilities staff Corby Baker
6 - Professor Claudia Meyer-Newman and Design senior Sean Williams
7 - Interiors alum Jamie Drzayich Martin, interiors instructor Marisa Mangum
8 - Interiors alum Tanya Smudraprabhut, Design department chair Grant Donesky, VisComm alum Suging Ngouv
I had the good fortune to get to Milan this week, a needed break from all the chaos. Tonight I was passing La Scala and noticed that Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra was being performed along with Brahm’s 2nd. My father and I spent many hours replaying the Bartok on his old record player, over and over and over. We both loved it, and in the amazing 4th movement I had myself in a nice cathartic cry. A great performance.
I wish Ray Wilbur could see the stonework here, and the two of you would have had a grand time wandering the streets.
Raising a Pint to Jon, Friday night, Oct. 14, Hurricane Cafe, Seattle
One of my dearest, oldest friends in Seattle…
I met Jon in the late ‘70’s when he was active in Seattle’s alternative art scene. and/or gallery, begun by Anne Focke, had segued into the original 9-1-1, now an established media arts center, but then the ragged leading edge of the alt-arts-scene. Jon founded it. I think. (Correct me, someone, if I’m wrong, but it seemed that way, he was so central to it.) As a young, self-taught graphic designer, I was drawn to his iconoclasm and zest.
I was the next generation down. My teachers at Antioch College in Ohio had been students of John Cage, Merce Cunningham, et al, at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Jon and I were on the same wavelength; it was a gift to have met him at that point in my life; I felt at home.
He was a scintillating thinker. Talking to him was like witnessing the flash of light on a many-faceted stone. He could go so many directions at a time, with gonzo enthusiasm, and bring all these disparate gems back together in a coherent and original way. We did a number of projects together over the years, culminating in the design team for the 1990 Goodwill Games. He kept us on track, cheer-led when the bureaucracy became burdensome, and generally contributed his brilliant self.
My heart was already tender when I heard of Jon’s death: I had just lost my boyfriend two months before to an undiagnosed heart condition, suddenly and unexpectedly. My sense of the impermanence of life, and the importance of love, was right on the surface. So Jon’s passing struck me very, very deeply. I treasure every memory, every weird thing he gave me, and the beautiful drawings that he made. I loved Grant Donesky’s image of him talking to Steve Jobs: they would have really hit it off!
I always thought it was funny how Jon referred to himself by using his last name, as it was his first name –”Gierlich here.” Maybe it was because he was from Kansas or that he didn’t like his first name. From the outside he was a man of few words and somewhat stoic.
My first encounter with Gierlich was when I was teaching ‘on the hill’ — we would cross paths in the cluttered office for teachers. It had no individual space, one phone and a small table. This is where our conversations began. Fresh out of Grad School our topics shifted from teaching to politics to art theory to what we had read in the New York Times that weekend. I knew he was special.
It was the first gate you had to open to get to the pasture. But once beyond the gate ~ Gierlich was Jon. You had to get to know him, give it time. He was observant, intuitive and shy in a charming way.
Jon and I shared an office space for eight years. Our conversations never ended ~ there was always a flow. There was always an exchange of ideas, observations, outrage, and sharing, always sharing.
A trip to Francine Seders Gallery with Jon to view his most recent show Quiet, I was taken by the simplicity of the drawn line and the complexity of shapes and the spaces that worked so beautifully together as Twelve Drawings. Take one of these drawings away and you might not understand the power of the whole. We laughed about that, but I do think this work celebrates the Jon’s journey. Quiet, complex, authentic and extraordinary.
You will be missed, but I will carry you in my heart and conversations.
Your biggest fan, Claudia