David Bierk, 1944-2002

In the late 1980s I had a small office on George St. in Peterborough, Ontario above Kelsey’s Nutrition Centre.

I shared the office with an 80 year old sculptor who smoked very pungent cigars and only came in to work once or twice a month. Our shared space was filled with cragly nudes and vats of clay, and at the back of the room was a small washroom, the only one on the floor.

At the front of the building on our floor was a huge open well-lit space that was the studio of painter David Bierk. I knew David by reputation — he was one of the founders of Artspace, an artist-run centre in the city, and several friends of mine had works of his in their homes. David pretty much kept to himself, as did I, and we only really saw each other when he came back to get water from the washroom we shared.

My strongest impression from those times was from David’s stereo: Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat had just come out, and David listened to it. And listened to it. Over and over and over and over. He must have loved it. Oddly, this didn’t bother me, and I love the album myself to this day.

David Bierk died this week of cancer. I heard the news from my friend (and former Peterborough resident) Ann, and only knew that David had been ill at all just this morning from my friend Stephen, who lives in Peterborough and was on the crew that worked on the studio that replaced that floor on George Street for David — another large space just down the street.

May he rest in peace.

Comments

Ann's picture
Ann on September 4, 2002 - 15:56

There was a point in my life when I countered David among by good friends…and I have always counted him as an inspiration. He certainly had a great influence on the art scene in Peterborough and by extension all of southern Ontario and all of the country.
He was a big man who never shied away from big projects…turning the town clock tower into a huge art gallery…or painting enormous paintings of roacks that so beautifully reflectd the awesome beauty of his adopted country.
As I’ve learned to say here on PEI…you know, he was really something.

Ann's picture
Ann on September 4, 2002 - 15:56

There was a point in my life when I countered David among by good friends…and I have always counted him as an inspiration. He certainly had a great influence on the art scene in Peterborough and by extension all of southern Ontario and all of the country.
He was a big man who never shied away from big projects…turning the town clock tower into a huge art gallery…or painting enormous paintings of roacks that so beautifully reflectd the awesome beauty of his adopted country.
As I’ve learned to say here on PEI…you know, he was really something.

Kevin O's picture
Kevin O on September 5, 2002 - 16:29

The Cluetrain Manifesto (which you introduced me to) calls markets “conversations”. Implicit in that thesis is the affect we all have on each other when we meet, interact, inspire, bore, aggravate, encourage, etc… It occurs to me that David Bierk has had an indirect influence in PEI. It may be that he considered the existence of this affect but perhaps never imagined its nature. In a sense it is a transcendental existence by virtue of the continuing works and behaviours of those he influenced.

stephen's picture
stephen on September 9, 2002 - 14:16

I’ve always been a fan of David’s art and it is really hard to learn of his death because both his art and himself seemed bigger than life. And I don’t know of many parents who can claim to have three very famous kids (Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, another one who is an NHL goalie and a third who is a model for Vogue in Europe).
My own memory of David was visiting with him during a Studio Tour — I spent about an hour with him at his studio before more people showed up. There is this odd notion around that artists somehow just make art but don’t really understand what they or anyone else is doing — so we need critics to help us understand. I think that is totally wrong — artists have their artistic mode and then they have their non-artist mode when they can look at business or art or anything as objectively as anyone else. When I visited him, David pulled down different catalogs and art magazines where his art was and showed that even though his paintings looked like classic art, he was really in the same school as the guys who put vacuum cleaners in a block of plexiglass or who make installations with teddy bears and kitsch. He was part of the 20th century project to make us think about what is and isn’t art and to think about how we look at art.
David could certainly be loud and confident but what struck me that day was that he seemed just like a working guy. When I asked him about his art and what made him different than an amateur artist he said he didn’t have any more talent than an amateur, he was just willing to paint paintings faster and to send them out the door — you can’t support a family by holding onto everything you have ever painted. My favorite David Bierk painting was one of his lush landscapes that was done on a T-shirt and that I bought at one of the 50/50 art shows. Ironically, the painting was brilliant but the T-shirt started to turn brown after a couple of years — I hope that whoever has it now thought to put it into a block of plexiglass. The world is once more a smaller, sadder place now that David Bierk is gone.

Sharon's picture
Sharon on September 14, 2002 - 18:06

I had never met David Bierk, But from what I read it made me feel like I had known him all my life. He was my inspiration and someone I would have loved to have met. His son Zac whom I consider a friend and like the brother I never had. Zac had seen me with his fathers art book and told me to send it to his father, However I was planning on making a trip to Peterborough so he could do it in person. I now regret not doing and had no Idea how short his time was left on this earth. His death took alot out of me and the art world is definitely a lonlier place without David Bierk. I’m also a huge fan of his sons Sebastian, and Zac and Daughter Heather Dylan. They will be hear to carry on the Bierk name with Pride as well as their artistic talents. David Bierk and the rest of the Bierk Family will always be in my heart and prayers.

Sharon's picture
Sharon on September 14, 2002 - 18:09

I had never met David Bierk, But from what I read it made me feel like I had known him all my life. He was my inspiration and someone I would have loved to have met. His son Zac whom I consider a friend and like the brother I never had he had seen me with his fathers art book and told me to send it to his father, However I was planning on making a trip to Peterborough so he could do it in person. I now regret not doing and had no Idea how short his time was left on this earth. His death took alot out of me and the art world is definitely a lonlier place without David Bierk. I’m also a huge fan of his sons Sebastian, and Zac and Daughter Heather Dylan. They will be here to carry on the Bierk name with Pride as well as their artistic talents. David Bierk and the rest of the Bierk Family will always be in my heart and prayers.

libby zarrahy's picture
libby zarrahy on February 16, 2004 - 21:56

I am so happy to stumble upon this site. I work in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Bierks work is featured in our Lobby with the piece “Absence in Paradise”. It is the centerpiece of the hotel, it is our heartbeat. I have always wanted his family to know that he continues to inspire approximately 300 hotel professionals that work here everyday. There is not a day that goes by that someone does not stop me and asks me to provide more information on how the painting came about. It was actually commissioned by Sheraton Corporation for their
planned renovation, the painting was unveiled in 1991 or 1992 I don’t recall which year, I simply know, this hotel would not be what it is without this beautiful work. This piece has recently been talked about even moreso with the introcuction of the movie “Girl with The Pearl Earring” of which a portion is featured on the painting. I remember his talents each day and thank you for the inspiration.

christine's picture
christine on May 18, 2004 - 21:31

I met Zac recently, and had no idea of his immense talents at the time. He was very sweet and polite.

Nora's picture
Nora on September 11, 2008 - 02:12

The world is much smaller without you, David.

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