Memorial: Rae Witvoet, 1950-2007

 

I recognized the artist Rae Witvoet long before I knew her. Rae, who passed away in Amsterdam on Oct. 5, shared a gallery with her husband, Klaas Weert on Massachusetts Ave. in the mid-‘90s. I used to see the two of them at lunch in the Point Tavern, sitting at the bar, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes; Rae almost always wore a broad-brimmed hat and darkened her eyes with kohl. Or I’d see Rae and Klaas at work in their gallery – working big, their surfaces stretched out on the wooden floor. Much of their work, in those days, was overtly political in the broadest sense of that term, more than willing to venture into areas that violated the complacent comfort zones of most local arts patrons.

Later, much later, Rae and Klaas shared their Amsterdam with us and there was time spent poring over Rae’s latest work. She was prolific, endlessly inventive and seemingly unable to repeat herself. Her work was daring and often brilliant, alive with ideas. These qualities would have been more than enough for most artists, but outdistancing them all was Rae’s capacity for friendship. In this she was spectacular.

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