Good Night, Prince Sweet
Eric Sweet, my son-in-law who I consider a son, died suddenly of a heart attack on Monday, April 6. Artist, teacher, brilliant radical mind — he and my daughter Catherine Armbrust clearly worked hard to grow an honest, loving, intensely creative marriage, and succeeded until it ended too soon in their early 40s.
He also possessed an amazingly rapid and pinpoint wit, and a deep sensitivity for humanity, especially family — graceful enough I believe to smile at my twist of Shakespeare in this column’s headline.
I loved Eric’s art, his honesty and wit, but most of all I loved the way he loved my daughter.
His website, theericsweet.com, will provide you with a comprehensive look at his powerful artwork. What became clear in the memorial held for him last Saturday in Columbia, MO — where both Eric and Catherine have been teaching part-time and creating art following achieving their Masters of Fine Art at the University of Missouri – was the respect other teachers and students had for his art, and particularly his caring method of teaching.
He wrote a candid and delightful self-profile on Sept. 25, 2013 for a high-school class reunion. That’s quoted below, followed by the last birthday sonnet I wrote for him last September. Our love and sorrow are deep, as is our connection – much clearer now – with his spirit.
“I guess I will stop lurking and actually contribute to this even though it makes me feel old. In 1988 I attended Mizzou on an art scholarship.
After 4 years getting nowhere in school I dropped out in order to party for a while and worked as a full time bartender. In 1994 I tried to move to Alaska with Doug Mittelberg in a half-assed, half-hearted attempt to figure out something to do with myself. I didn’t last long because I realized that you can’t run away from yourself. So he stayed there and I came back to Columbia and kicked around for a while until I re-enrolled in school where I was able to study for a time in Italy and then earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in painting from Mizzou in 1997.
I then moved to Kansas City and got a job designing and building stained glass domes for a restaurant company called G\R interiors and traveled all over the country installing them. I did that for seven years all the while making my own work and taking every opportunity to learn every hand working skill I possibly could. While working at G\R I also worked as a chauffeur, a blacksmith, and dealer of vintage items. From stained glass I moved into warm glass (using a kiln) and finally glass blowing before I decided that I really hate glass in 2005.
That year I began pursuing an MA in Printmaking at UMKC and also began running the art gallery on campus. While at UMKC I curated shows from all over North and South America and one from Ghana in Africa and set the Guinness record for the World’s Longest Linoleum Print. I earned my degree in 2007.
In 2008 I returned to Mizzou to pursue my MFA in Printmaking and earned my degree in 2011. Since then I have been on year-to-year contracts as a professor teaching all levels of Printmaking and Drawing and running the print lab. I don’t consider it a job because I love every minute and I can’t believe they pay me (even though it is not very much) to do it. One thing I especially love is when my students roll their eyes at me when I quote Mrs. Ewalt and tell them they don’t have to do something, they get to do it.
My personal artwork merges and expands the definition of drawing and printmaking and explores the failures of idealism viewed through the lens of 19th century mid-western American utopian societies. I am constantly making work and exhibit nationally and internationally and search for tenure track jobs at preferably research universities but really any place that will hire me.
My wife, Catherine Armbrust, and I met in 1994 and were married in 1998. She is also an artist and professor and her work is mainly sculpture that critiques gender roles in modern society. I am constantly in awe of her brilliance.
We have been fortunate to travel most of the world together and are currently working on finding a way to do her dream trip to Greece sometime in the near, but probably far away, future.
In our spare time we like to make fun of each other and everything else and enjoy most outdoor activities and games and spending time with the people we love.”
THE ART OF PRINTMAKING
A birthday sonnet for my son-in-law Eric Sweet
The art of printmaking, they say, centers
on originality. That just fits
you: a true original. Consider
yourself a monotype, a composite
of man called artist—melded by the Muse
from the best who’ve come before. When Rembrandt
etched his amazed selfie, or Goya fused
his “Disasters of War,” or Vallotton
kissed his “Cogent Reason,” surely they sensed
something in your waiting soul, your mustached
mouth pressing your wife’s loving cheek—presence
of all that’s human. When Dürer’s eye flashed
upon St. Jerome in his study, surely
he sensed your wit in the great scholar’s psyche.
September 15, 2014