I’m sure there are a couple of teachers who influenced your life in a big way, wether it is in a good way or a bad way. Teachers have incredible power and I have very good luck to have had a handful of great teachers in my life. One of them is Mr. Larry Sommers, the greatest printmaking technician and teacher in the world, who I miss so much.
Today when I was making the print “It is like a question mark,” my background layer just didn’t come out right. It was blotchy in some spots. I was annoyed and suddenly I had this urge to whine and call out “What do I do, Larry? What’s wrong? Help me Larry!” I envisioned myself taking my print and walking over to his small office attached to the studio. I would walk pass the wall of prints and pictures and ignore them, I would see what he is currently doing and ignore it, and stick my failed print in his face with a frown without even greeting him, “Look, Larry, help!”
Freshmen do this, grad students do this and even the professors do this. “Larry, look, it didn’t come out right.” “Larry, something is missing.” “Larry, something is dirty.” “Larry, where is xyz?” “Larry, I made out with a boy.” “Larry, my boyfriend dumped me.” Larry can fix anything. “Larry, I think god is punishing me. God is putting a line across my image every time I print.” Larry would ask, “Well, what paper are you printing on? How long did you soak your plate? What ink are you using? What pressure are you using on the press? Did you have breakfast? You can’t print right without energy.” Larry figures everything out for everyone.
Larry loves France and whenever he goes on vacation, he goes to France to visit all the art museums and see all the beautiful French ladies. Once, before he left for France, he handed me a set of keys. “Bonny, when I’m away you’ll be in charge of the ink closet. Only you can take out new ink and these other supplies when you notice that something is low.” I felt like I was knighted by the king of the world.
I’ve hated Larry too once. One day I told him, “Larry, I’m going to move to San Francisco and join this artists’ warehouse thing I found on Craig’s List and live and work with all kinds of artists.” Larry asked me, “well, do they have walls set up even?” “No.” “How’s the bills split up? Are you going to pay the photo guy’s water bill and the ceramic guy’s electric bill?” “I don’t know.” Larry said, “Look, go find a decent apartment.” I hated Larry so much at that moment and I thank him for life.
The last time I heard Larry’s voice was on the phone. I just moved to San Francisco and was working in San Francisco design center for a showroom, my first job. I gave him a call in the small dark back room, beside me were boxes of silk and chiffon fabric samples piled up to the ceiling. “Larry!” “Bonny! How are you!?” “I’m on my lunch break!” I said with a hushed voice. “What are you doing now?” Larry asked. “I’m selling furnitures!” He was laughing.Â “Oh good, don’t get fired!” “Okay, see you!” The conversation was so short. It was too short.
It’s been about 2 years since Larry passed away from this world. I feel sad but I don’t feel so sad when I decide that he must be pulling some amazing prints and chatting with Joan of Arc at the same time. It must be this way yes it must be. And I will always remember him when I pull a print.