I know this sounds dramatic, but Tim Rollins saved my life. I shudder to think where I’d be today and what I’d be doing if I hadn’t walked into the art building at the University of Maine in Augusta in September 1973, just at the right moment. There, I encountered a stunning young guy with long black hair, wearing platform shoes, and dressed in what hindsight tells me was his glitter period. Tim smiled, offering treats from a bag of candy he carried to help make friends on his first day of school. (Carrot and stick methods, even then). He had a briefcase stuffed with books in his other hand. Charisma, sweets, and consciousness, all in one.
It didn’t take long to realize that Tim was freedom incarnate, in his thinking and his being. He was Peter Pan beckoning to escape the confines of going-nowhere-fast teenage life, and fly away, in search of meaningful adventure and a more extensive world than was visible in rural, central Maine. I’d never met anyone like Tim. None of us had. A wild combination, whose cultural references and passions ignored all boundaries and labels. Truly radical. He had an infinite intellectual appetite, enthusiasm, and discipline. Abounding imagination. Insight. Gumption. And the sharpest, quickest, most devilish wit. Tim was a blast!
Tim was a star way back then. Always on fire with ideas, desires, questions, and new knowledge, the one who was always experimenting, and above all, Doing. Making and making things happen. Firing things up. Tim was the one who recognized a spark in others and kindled us to ignite and become. These were life-long traits.
Over time, Tim only got brighter. Continual growth. Enriched by the many profound relationships he provoked. Resolve. Utter belief in beauty made material. All-out commitment to the communal. Always expanding, and taking in the world. Giving freely. Deepening. Flowing. Absorbing and reflecting. Nourishing by example, Always.
Julie Ault is an artist and member of Group Material.