It is with deep regret that Art @ Large informs you of the passing of one of our own. L.A. Willette died Sunday morning, November 13th at Beth Israel Hospital due to complications from cancer. He was 53.
Tammey & I first met L.A. Willette around 1997 on the corner of West Broadway and Prince Street in SoHo, New York City. I liked him immediately. His rude comments on the art world, and his flair for salesmanship of his art just made me feel I've found someone with even more art-angst than myself. That corner, in the heart of where the street artists sell their work was his corner. A fixture for the last 25 years or more. He would always show up in the very late afternoon, while his friend Jill Stasium had set up his booth in the morning.
Several months after meeting him, I was walking through the area on a late Saturday afternoon, and there he was. Sleeping in the front seat of his old beat up Mercedes, with his head hanging out the window. You could almost hear him snoring above the street noise. I snuck up on him and gave him a gentle hug on the shoulders and said, "it's okay, don't get up". He awoke a bit startled and then laughed his ass off.
L.A. was many things to many people: A ladies man, a father, a lover of beauty, a good salesman. A man who understood, admired, and respected the energy possessed by women. But most of all, he was a great artist. He understood the subjects he chose to paint, and was not afraid to be an original. He was the definitive struggling artist, selling on the streets for all those years and sacrificing everything for his art except for his original mind and talent.
When we were planning his exhibition with Art @ Large in 2004, he obliged me for some smaller works on canvas, by doing a series of four, 24 x 30 inches. Combined with collage elements, and a bit freer in style than usual, he was so concerned about his latest creations not being what I was looking for. But when he brought them up, I was simply amazed, and purchased one of them before the show opened. I will always treasure that work, "An Incalculable Offering", and the several others we have in our collection.
But most of all I will treasure the fact that I knew him, and admired and stood by his work. With the exception of the people who collected his paintings, the fact of how unappreciated his work was in his lifetime will someday soon change. He was a rebel in every sense of the word, and paid the price for it, but in doing so has left behind a body of work that will not go unnoticed. We know this to be true.
Source: Art @ Large!
Author: Pet Silvia (Art @ Large! Curator), Tammey Stubbs (Art @ Large! Director)