Lamar Briggs: 1935 – 2015
My approach to art is to open myself visually to the world around me as much as possible—by reading, traveling, collecting and just plain “seeing.” Music and color ‘flow’ for me. I paint to music and the music and rhythm speak to me more than any external experience. ~Lamar Briggs
My friend, Lamar Briggs passed away on Sunday afternoon. Just last week, I was in his hospital room where he sat wearing his signature cap, giving me grief about the “bird nest” on my head (his description of my poof), asking if I was still driving that “old lady car” (his words for the Caddie I bought last year), and telling me about a new CD he just received (Frank Sinatra with the Red Norvo Quintet, Live In Australia 1959) and how great it is. Although Lamar had been in and out of the hospital for the past 3 months, I knew he was feeling better because he also asked me to put a pair of bright yellow, white, and grey socks on his feet. Ever the colorist, Lamar always had a signature moment and that was the last one I shared with him.
The next day, Lamar wasn’t doing well and was moved to ICU and then to Critical Care when he started deteriorating further. By Friday afternoon, I got an e-mail from his “babe” (Nancy, his wife) that he was being moved to Hospice because there was nothing more the doctors could do. We filled his room with laughter, tears, and jazz music this past weekend but he waited until he was left alone briefly late Sunday afternoon to pass away – probably because he didn’t want a bunch of sniveling women hovering over him, which he surely would have given us grief for if he could.
Lamar Briggs was well-known in the art world. He was a very talented artist who specialized in abstract art; a colorist inspired by music, nature, and the world around him. But he was also a man of surprising tastes, He loved fast cars and drove a Porsche most of his life. One of the highest complements he ever paid me was when he told me he liked the way I drive. I had just picked up he and his wife, Nancy at the Beau-Rivage (he liked nice hotels, too) in Lausanne, Switzerland and had no idea he was evaluating my driving skills. But for all his love of cars and luxury hotels, there was nothing pretentious about Lamar and he disliked pretension in others.
Lamar loved his wife, Nancy, his family and friends (who fiercely loved him back), art, good music, a great movie, dogs (especially corgis), and dark chocolate. He also loved presents and even if a box was addressed to Nancy, Lamar would open it because he couldn’t wait to see what was inside. He wore cool glasses, cared about young people (he called my daughter “Hottie”), and where our nation was headed. From time to time, he would e-mail me and tell me what “my man” (Obama) was doing and how misguided my political views are (I’m an independent) and I never tired of trying to convince him that as an artist, he shouldn’t be a right-leaning Republican although he was a social liberal. In reality, we agreed on a lot more than we disagreed but he always liked to spar.
My world was opened by Lamar Briggs. He introduced me to jazz, Chet Baker, dark chocolate, modern art, and showed me that life was indeed tough so you had to find ways to enjoy it. Last week in his hospital room, I told him that I loved him for who he was and for the road (definitely the less traveled) he took. He was brave and found a way to do what he loved and didn’t compromise along the way which didn’t make life easy for him. When I asked him what he would have been had he not been an artist, he said he probably would have been a graphic designer, which is what he started out being years and years ago.
I met Lamar through his wife Nancy who I met 8 years ago in the parking lot of the Four Arts in Palm Beach walking our corgis. They started sending me Christmas cards (hand painted by Lamar) every year and I treasured every single one. When Lamar wasn’t able to paint cards this year, Nancy had a black and white piece photocopied onto a card and sent it out. Last night she turned to me and said that a friend had called her. He had received the card and knew something was wrong because all the color was gone. It was the perfect observation.