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John Link, 1942-2021

Post #1893 • May 21, 2021, 7:27 PM

John Link has died. John was commenting here at Artblog.net as recently as March and this comes as a complete and heartbreaking surprise.

Conversations between John and Walter Darby Bannard were the beating heart of this blog, the intellectual center of gravity around which other remarks got made. To have fostered that was a great honor, and it indelibly colored my own intellectual and creative path. It does not surprise me to learn from the remembrance at the above link that John had an IQ of 160, and occasionally burned down one of his professors just to watch the light flicker. John was really the only guy in Darby's later life with the mental firepower to give Darby a serious challenge in an argument. If you look in the archive, prior to 2010, you can find conversations between Catfish and Oldpro or Opie. They are John and Darby respectively. See, for instance, this. (In 2010 I stopped blogging for a while, and shut down the comment functionality of the CMS for good. The open commenting form encouraged lively, freewheeling exchange but also had a tendency to attract trolls, spammers, idiots, and malcontents. Darby gave me a hard time about closing down a forum that was periodically brilliant in spite of the noise. John pretty much told him to get off my back, and that it was time for me to lay down the burden and get my writing into the magazines.)

I don't mind revealing it now: there is an episode from that 2003-2010 period in which John, frustrated that no one with Darby's brains existed that could come along and argue as formidably on behalf of postmodernism as Darby could about modernism, sockpuppeted that person into existence. Darby didn't know this, but I did, and I kept it secret. The nom de plume for that persona I leave as an exercise for the reader.

As much as I value Darby as a mentor, in certain respects I had more in common with John: polymathic, tech-savvy, curious to the point of distraction, and continually up to eclectic side-projects. An email I have from him from February said that he had recently restored a 1920 Oscar Schmidt parlor guitar. (For my part, I just ordered a copy of The Anarchist's Tool Chest.) John hosted his websites on his own boxes, hand-configuring email protocols and the rest of it. He also mentioned that he was clearing out his basement to resume painting.

I'm sorry that he didn't get that chance, because he was a gorgeous painter. A lot of his work is technically acrylic resin, formulated from components acquired from Golden Artist Colors, and its predecessor Bocour prior to that. (Here you are. Have at it, but for pity's sake open a window.) His color sense was extraordinary, and his feeling for gesture was right up there with Darby's. If he had gone to New York City when Darby was there I think he could have made a serious go of an art career. As far as I know that prospect never much enticed him. He was content to teach at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, and spend his days with the love of his life.

"Living is both the best and worst process on earth," he once said to me by way of consolation when I was in a low time. But to living's credit, it occasionally yields us a John Link. May God bless your soul, John. You were a giant, and the world will never again see your equal.

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