By ANTHONY HADEN-GUEST July 2020
Michael Anderson, the collage artist, and I had been putting this Pictures from the Pandemic piece together just a few days before he died, probably of a heart attack, on Monday. Anderson, a man with enormous talent and a big heart which co-existed with a sometimes unsparing critical intelligence, had just re-opened the live-in studio on Broadway and the Upper West Side, which he had shut up when the virus was going into overdrive in New York. “There was a panic in this building,” he told me. “Three people died in April and May. I felt I was going to be here by myself. I gathered up my materials in a giant bag and took a Uber out to Long Island on March 5.”
Anderson’s destination was a house in Freeport on the South Shore, just a ten minute drive from the sea. We spoke on the telephone now and again. “You don’t go out much,” he said. “Covid is very insular.” He was immersed in two pursuits: Growing things and making his art, and he would tell me about his triumphs and disasters in the garden - ”Rosemary and thyme. I’m growing sunflowers from seed … my pear tree passed away” – and how he was working away in what he called “My Unabomber’s shack”.
Unabomber’s shack? I asked, very much hoping that he had somehow managed to snag the original. Truly a collectible.
But no. “It’s about the same size as Ted Kaczynski’s shack in the mountains,” he said.
Michael Anderson returned to the city a number of days ago. Upon my visit I had found him going through such art materials as a sheaf of posters he picked up in Athens, Greece, a few years ago and a collection of old baseball cards. All around was work in progress, such as a book of art about the pandemic. “I’m in the middle of making Kung Fu ones,” he said. “But I don’t want to make work about Covid. This is not about Covid. It’s about what it feels like to be in the middle of Covid.” The Unabomber was a freak. Covid is real. WM
Anthony Haden-Guest is an internationally known writer and artist.
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