GEO, the Man

Every artist needs a person out there in the world who believes in them, no matter what. I know I have a few people like this. I’m very thankful for them. But there’s one guy… he’s like my very own Sam Elliott.

Sam Elliott as The Stranger from The Big Lebowski.

Geo knows just when to email, just how to make a comment, and just the right moment to send support. He’s got a sixth sense for these things. He’s uncommon. He understands the artist’s mindset; hell, he is an artist (a woodcarver of great skill).

And just like The Stranger in The Big Lebowski, Geo has phenomenal advice, otherworldly commentary, and a poetic pace to his missives. We often correspond in waves of evocative side-speak, like two mystics shouting across The Void. Of course, we are mystics (at our best). And there is a void – the vast gulf of internet tubes, and years, and pastel dust, and bricks, and wood shavings.

And Hair. We are of the International Brotherhood of Longhairs. As I wrote back in 2014, Geo has a great mound of flowing gray hair. Soon mine will be as gray as his is. We share the hair. Hair Share.

Recently I received a wonderful package from Geo. It was a real-honest-to-goodness-Geo-original carving. It was a portrait of me based on a drawing I made on the outside of a box full of broken glass! Geo saw it, and he made it real, physical, a true bas-relief of wooden Ballou!

Here it is, in all of its glory:

Geo. Portrait of Matt Ballou, after Matt Ballou. 7×16 inches, carved wood relief, 2019.
I find myself making that face instinctively when I see the carving in my new office space…

New office, you say? Yes. I have taken on the job of Director of Undergraduate Studies for Art, a position which involves advising, guiding, and in many other ways aiding our hundreds of undergraduates through their academic careers. It’s been a wild transition to go from only teaching to teaching AND being a go-to administrator of Undergraduate Studies. Luckily I have many helpers, including the amazing Deborah, several folx in the Dean’s office, and Geo.

With their help I’ll do my best to do my duty for God and country… and those undergraduates who need some direction. I can tell that I’ll be memorizing the entire University of Missouri course listing… whew.

With all of this in mind it’s good to know that Geo is there. He’s holding it down for all of us erstwhile hippies, for all us wandering faithful, for all those who receive the scapular.

The Stranger: Take it easy, Dude.

The Dude: Oh yeah!

The Stranger: I know that you will.

The Dude: Yeah, well – the Dude abides.  [Exits with beers in hand] 

The Stranger: [to the camera] The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.

I’ll try to take it easy, Geo.

NORBZ

Eric Norby is awesome. He was such a strange contrast to Marcus, and we made a quirky trinity of awkward jokes, weird beer, and enigmatic glances together. Norby came to Mizzou at a time when I didn’t think I’d be able to forge good friendships with new grads. I’m not sure why I thought this, but I guess I figured I was getting old and more distant from the newer grads coming into the program.

thumb_IMG_1385_1024“Goddammit, Greta!” Digital Drawing, 2014.

Thankfully, Norby proved me wrong and became a good friend.

Sometimes irascible, almost never empathetic, always intelligent, Norbz has a very particular personality that stood out from the other grads in our program. He had a strong work ethic, clear sense of the value of his time and work, and a love for the experience of music and beer that made for some of the best times I’ve had in recent memory.

IMG_1191“Janus Head Norbz (Two Faced Portrait of Eric Norby),” Instagram Photo, 2013

We began making beer together – those were some amazing nights. Sometimes they resulted in shenanigans like this:

Oh Jesus from matthewballou on Vimeo.

Norby would have thrived in any graduate program. His ability to adapt and his smarts would have made him stand out anywhere. But I’m glad he spent some time watching The Big Lebowski with me, discoursing on the qualities of Ween and Radiohead, singing some Lee Hazlewood, and exploring the meaning of the western vista.

Thanks a lot, Norbz.

thumb_IMG_5373_1024“It’s a Graying Out. (Portrait of Norbz),” Graphite on tracing paper, 8.5 by 3 inches, 2013.

“The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners.” – The Stranger.