The day after my father passed away in his sleep on Thanksgiving morning 2004, I went to his Howard Street Studio to try and understand what had happened. For our family, and especially for my dad, the studio had always represented a kind of real world "Oz," a magical retreat from the chaos of daily life. Six days a week he went there to paint. On the seventh day, he sat quietly at home drawing, usually after spending time with the family or watching sports on the television. Our family never went on any family vacations. Because, for dad, he was on vacation every time he stepped into his studio.
Not surprisingly, to the outsider, the studio, buried deep within the hostility of depressed modern America, seemed anything but a calming atmosphere. The walls screamed sensory overload with images of carnival freak shows, masked Mexican wrestlers and cross-dressing sexual street hustlers juxtaposed against iconic images of JFK, Richard Speck and Michael Jordan. Musically, a noticeable undercurrent of anything from percussive electronica to classic rock to delta blues filled the air as the studio's thin walls did little to battle the suffocating heat and humidity in the summer or the near-paralyzing chill of a Chicago winter. This visceral onslaught forced you to focus your mind or else be eaten up by your environs. And yet, in some strange way, this barrage did relax you. It did make you feel comfortable. Why? Perhaps, in essence, because the studio represented an uncompromising insight into the mind of the one of the most approachable, kind and generous of people.
As I sat on one of Dad's illustrious worn-to-hell duct-taped stools and surveyed the room of the studio on that blistery November day, I remember feeling the pain of unfulfilled promise. That promise quietly exploded from the dozens of unused stretchers and canvases, from the hundreds of untouched paint tubes and brushes, from the warm hum of the stereo speakers left on. But the loss was felt most from the two enormous black and white panels propped up against the wall. In fact, the strangest sensation of all was that I was not being overcome by the usual intense vibration of colors pulsating from recently finished canvases, but rather, by the absence of such color dominating the room from the distinctly muted presence of the unfinished these two unfinished panels.
The two identical sized panels, each 80" x 100", were easily the largest works he had ever created and limited only by the size of his studio doors. Commissioned by Lewis and Clark College and the State of Illinois Capital Development Board, the two panels were to be part of the bicentennial celebration of the historic journey of Lewis and Clark.
Stevie Ray Vaughan once said, "The blues are there to soothe and if they don't, then something's not being done right." I believe Dad felt that way about art. Yes, with his work there is often an unsettling feeling. Often his paintings are more obviously visceral, attacking your nervous system first in a flush of energy. Ultimately, however, they make you consider why that happened, what you bring to the experience.
Today the studio stands almost exactly as it did on that day almost two years ago. Some of the art has been removed and the two large panels are gone, but the posters and photos still cover the walls, the day calendar remains open to 11/04 and the faint smell of turpentine lingers. Efforts to have the studio permanently recreated or moved to a more functional location or even to keep the Howard street spot open for the public to see, to observe, to experience, have been unsuccessful to this point. Unfortunately, it will probably have to be packed up by year's end. But even with the studio structure intact, and with the steady sound of street noise emanating from outside, there is something very different. A bit of that magic is gone. The omnipresent smile and youthful and proud enthusiasm that Dad displayed in showing you his latest work. The characteristic sarcastic cackle that he voiced as he discussed the world or that quasi-interview posture he took as he asked you about your day are but faint memories in an empty room. Dad always said that it was the viewer who completed the circuit with a painting. He said that the painting was a performance by the artist giving off a special energy. But that it was the viewer, with his unique thoughts, biases, and experiences, who was needed to receive that energy and bring life to the painting. So too does the studio need his life-force to make it once again explode with that creative wit and sensibility that so many of us will both always remember, and long for, to return.
The Ed Paschke Foundation
(taken from the book "Electronicon")