An open memorial letter to my brother and dear artist friend: GF Sam Wagner
I sat behind Shelley Wagner during a English class where we read plays at KU in 1993. At the time she and Sam were dating. She had a cornerstone t-shirt on, and I asked her if she had been before. She said that her boyfriend Sam was a huge music fan. I told her I would love to meet him sometime. Eventually we did, and Sam, Shelley, and my wife Shannon and I would hang out on numerous occasions. They came to Shannon and my wedding, and gave us some awesome artist made coffee mugs that we still have to this day (and is still one of our favorites to sip the black juice out of).
Sam and Shelley got married a few years after us, and when they moved to Kansas City we didn’t get together as often because life has a tendency to keep you busy. We both bought houses, had kids and settled into life. Sam always loved the music, and would quote lyrics and spout inside knowledge of what was going on in his particular genre of interest at the time. My brother Brian and he could dialog back and forth for hours, and I just enjoyed the conversation. The three of us threw some straight edge raves together to. But, Sam had another passion besides his love of architecture and music. Art. He loved to produce art. If he had a few moments to spare, especially at night, he would go downstairs and make art. He loved to discuss art and talk about techniques and ideas. Shelley and Sam were both involved with b.a.l.m. | beauty art and life movement gatherings from the beginning.
Over the last few years I was excited to be able to include GF Sam Wagner or GF Wagner (his art pseudonym, Galen Forrest [Sam] Wagner) into various art exhibitions that b.a.l.m. produced or curated. In 2009, he was in the b.a.l.m. WHITE SHOW, in Lawrence, Kansas and also the second version in San Antonio, Texas. He had produced a series of white or mostly white works for the exhibition. The series was “Little Things I Should Have Said and Done”. They are poignant, stark, melancholy works. Two works not in this series were included in the exhibition; “Geese”, and “Discover and Enjoy”. He sold both paintings! In 2010, he was in Anthropoi which he showed a 36″ x 36″ piece, “Mourning into Dancing” with three girl/women dancing which included digital pixel concept, at the 739 Mass Street Flash Space. At this space he was also in the Dry Bones exhibition. Shannon and I bought his painting Awakening (Melancholy Ghost), a memento mori work with a young boy holding a skull and he had another offer to have it purchased as well from a couple from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This couple was trying to have Sam make another version of this piece when he passed away. For Shannon and I the boy reminded us of our son Caden, and we loved the way he handled the cut paper as the medium.
We also bought another work of his, at an exhibition of works completed over a years time. In 2011 I jurored an exhibition in Des Moines, IA for the Hillyard Company, and he was included with a clever duo; “A Portrait of a Mop“, and “A Portrait of a Broom”.
In 2012 b.a.l.m. co-produced and curated an exhibition at the Lawrence Arts Center called DANNON art project, where the artist worked in the space as a studio, performance and exhibition all at the same time. He came to the first reception when it opened and we all went out for an after party at Burger Stand as a large group. We had a great time hanging out and making art. He postponed his time slot a couple of times so that he could help Shelley with a project, or help coach soccer for his boys. That was the kind of man he was, giving, loving, caring and creative beyond belief.
We got together again for lunch at PepperJax Grill at one point during a lunch break, he ran over to Lawrence to drop off some artwork. This was the last time I saw Sam. I spoke to him on the phone a few weeks ago when he was in the hospital. He was short on breathe, but in great spirits. He was a positive man, always looking for the good things in life, despite his situation. This is the Sam I will remember. The high energy, smiling, laughing, talking, loving man, that would put a smile on your face and illicit excitement with his infectious creativity, ideas and thoughts. Sam passed away on July 5th, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts after being diagnosed with Mesothelioma cancer only a couple of months before. I for one am so thankful for the time I knew him. I will miss you GF Sam Wagner. Yours was a life to be lived and remembered!
I was honored and humbled to receive a call from Shelley and asked to be a pall bearer for Sam’s Funeral. Here is his obituary: http://www.tributes.com/show/GF-Sam-Wagner-94077810