Teachers, good ones, have an invaluable impact. I have had many invaluable teachers in my life. A few days ago one of them passed away.
Dr. Charles Bergengren was a professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I could write more on that, but his obit sums up the details of his life better than I ever will. I am personally indebted to his off topic rants and exclamatory notes in red pen while he was my professor of Folk Art and BFA thesis adviser.
My memories of him are wild, inspiring, dark, and funny. Him analyzing the surprisingly supportive and cathartic world of mosh pits. Him regaling us with extensive slideshows of Puritan headstones and Vodun altars. His regular recommendation of the Wisconsin Death Trip, which I finally bought last year and still kinda freaks me out. Him leading us through the woods, or as close to woods as East Cleveland can get, in search of a rock covered with magical symbols. Him staunchly supporting my thesis presentation on the ethics and spiritual symbolism of hunting, while a vegetarian girl in the audience cried. Yup, that happened.
He was full of wonderful stories and strange ideas, which of course are where great art hides.
Just weeks before his death he was awarded the Viktor Shrekengost Teaching Award at CIA. His last speech to his students and the timeless lessons therein were posted on the institute's YouTube channel:
My favorite quote is, "The connections are there. You will see them." That proved true in my artistic search as a student at CIA and reminds me even now to keep looking. Thank you for all that you taught me intentionally and unintentionally.