I came home from work on August 16th to the news that my friend Ed Funk had passed away the day before. As soon as my wife Nancy mentioned his name, I knew the news wouldn't be good. She didn't know Ed, and it wasn't like she was going to tell me about an upcoming exhibition of his work or that he called to say he was stopping by. For those that knew Ed, my line of thinking makes perfect sense.
I'm not going to use this space to talk about cherishing the time you have with friends - you should. Or say he was taken from us too soon - he was. Rather, I'll try and sum up the profound loss I feel and why I admired and enjoyed just spending time with him.
I knew Ed through the Indy art scene; he was part of the 1980's Herron crowd, graduating alongside many recognizable names that still make art and call Indy home. He was a printmaker, studied under Robert Eagerton, learning from the best of the best. He never lost his passion for printmaking; he wasn't opposed to technology, but still preferred to hand-pull countless prints. I also remember the stories he told of his time in the Navy, traveling the world. I believe these experiences informed his work and shaped his view of the world. Ed had opinions, but he was never condescending or preachy, always respectful of others.
I considered myself one of Ed's friends, not good friends, but I knew him long enough and spent just enough time with him to earn his trust and, I believe, respect. He was a private person. Ed wasn't out and about on First Friday, didn't do Start with Art and rarely attended openings (hell, I had a one-man show for him at my gallery, he came in early and left before anyone showed up.) No hard feelings, it was just Ed's way. For what he lacked in the social arena, he made up for in being a stand-up guy and a truly gifted artist. He was always happy to share what he knew when asked, and he knew a lot. I don't know anyone that ever said an unkind word about him. I'm sure many people had the wind knocked out of their sails, as I did, when they heard the news he'd died.
As I write this, I'm feet away from one of Ed's prints that I'm fortunate to own. The title is SN, edition 1/2, a piece I purchased after one of his rare exhibits. I've always loved his work and I've never tired of this piece. You can't talk about Ed without the conversation morphing into his artwork. In my mind, they are one in the same, and I truly believe he would agree. On my visits to Dolphin, we would spend most of the time in the studio (in the back room) going through lateral file drawers, flipping through hundreds of prints. Ed giving me a status report of where he was in the printing process, the successes and failures, and what he was going to work on next. I never tired of these exchanges. For a man of few words, he could talk about art for hours. He was also supportive of his fellow artists in the best way possible: he purchased their work. The reason for my last trip to see him about three months ago was to borrow works from his collection for an upcoming exhibition. I also asked him to send images of his work for the State Museum collection, but unfortunately, that didn't happen.
I once had a well-known art curator tell me that Indianapolis really didn't have an art scene to speak of. I remember being more puzzled by this statement than upset. I knew their knowledge of local art was nominal, at best. And this pronouncement said more about them than the intended target. I actually felt sorry for them that they weren't familiar with people like Ed. Their loss; they would have loved his work. Ed was a rare breed, and like other artists who I have known and recently passed (Bob Berkshire, Ed Sanders and Greg Brown)he brought something unique to the table, but shared two things, geography and a commitment to their art. If Herron, iMOCA, Harrison Center and the like are the body of the local art scene, Ed was the blood that was coursing through its veins, below the surface, authentic, necessary and lasting.
For the better part of thirty years, I've been driven by the sense that I'm part of something bigger than myself, just one piece of the puzzle. Ed Funk will forever be a piece of that puzzle, too. I'm going to miss him, but I'll take some comfort in knowing that I'm not the only one.