In Memoriam: Lynn Thomsen 

When Lynn Thomsen and I traveled through France together in 1994, she carried a packet of blank cards wherever we went and made sketches on them, which she sprayed with fixative and sent home as postcards to family and friends. I was fascinated by what caught her eye. The pattern of stones beneath the running water of a river, the peeled paint of a shutter were as interesting to her, as worthy of her attention as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre. She made a sketch of me to send to my husband - not at Monet's Giverny, but in the corner of a straggly garden down the road amidst hollyhocks whose petals were crumbling to dust.

"You were made to set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment," the writer Annie Dillard said. Lynn was astonished by everything, and spent her whole life spinning her astonishment into marvelous forms, imprinting herself on the world around her. Art and life were the same thing to her.

There she is in the whimsical living space she created, a loft in an old building on 30th Street, with hornets' nests, still on their branches, hanging from the high ceiling and birds' nests, rocks, shells, geodes - bits of the earth she collected, wandering. There's a fabricated steel swing big enough to hold two people that she hung in the middle of the huge room. A gargantuan blackboard she salvaged from an old school and mounted in her kitchen, chalk tray included. A cat stairway with a nifty bridge to a sleeping perch - because every living being was accommodated in her life.

Lynn's astonishment at being alive shimmers in her paintings hanging on the walls: luminous plowed fields, trees mirrored in summer-calm lakes - the light in them as real as the light pouring in through the huge loft windows.

You can see the fruits of it in the lives of hundreds of students whom she loved and taught, and who adored her, instinctively understanding that she was not only teaching art, but teaching them how to be. Her countless friends knew it when, again and again, she directed our attention to some small thing that made the world crack open in a way we'd never have imagined and, in doing so, lightened our heavy hearts.

Lynn's time in the world she loved was far too short. But the light she made wherever she went will live among us always.

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