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May 2012 Archives

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Gregory Warmack died May 30 of an infection in an Atlanta, Ga. hospital.
He was 64 on the outside and 24 on the inside.

We could all use a little more of his childlike views.
My friend and artist Tony Fitzpatrick recalls Warmack as one of the kindest people he has ever met.

"Greg was an absolute shaman when it came to marrying materials, taking things that normal people throw out and making it reborn," Fitzpatrick said on Thursday. "His work echoed his experience in Chicago, his life, a descendant from Africa. Those idioms became clear. It was magical and humane. I learned from Greg. When I started using matchbooks, scraps and wrappers, I owe the idea of seeing possibility in those objects to Gregory......

"......His endless quest to give a second definition to common objects."

A beautiful metaphor for life.

Here are two Sun-Times dispatches from hanging with Gregory in the summer of 1996.
Warmack moved to Bethlehem, Pa. in 2002. He lost most of his artwork and his dog Pharaoh in a 2008 house fire and settled in Atlanta in 2009.

July 14, 1996--

The eyes have it.

That is clearly the conclusion after a visit to the cluttered North Side apartment/studio of folk artist Gregory Warmack. Known to friends as "Mr. Imagination," nothing escapes the childlike eyes of Warmack, a 48-year-old Maywood native..........


NEW ORLEANS--She was a bright attorney from D.C. We were at Port O' Call, a dark tiki bar and restaurant at 838 Esplanade Ave. where the house drink is the suspect Neptune's Monsoon.

I generally stop at the Port O'Call for a beer on my two- mile walk back to the French Quarter from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

I was watching the Bulls blow a fourth quarter lead Friday night against Philadelphia. The D.C. attorney and I were talking about Saturday's jazz fest picks such as Steve Earle and New Orleans soul queen Irma Thomas. We were listing all the colorful glories of New Orleans that hang around your soul like Mardi Gras beads.

"You must have a dark side," she said. "If you come to New Orleans alone."

My friend Tom says this is the first line of a great novel.

But is anyone alone in New Orleans who absorbs the joy and bonding of jazz fest?

How could you be alone when Mavis Staples, the unbending spirit of the promise of Chicago, held court before one of the largest crowds I have seen in the Gospel tent. [She scolded security twice who were trying to contain people from dancing in the aisles.].................

Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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