Remembering Michael Zwack, ’71

Editor’s Note: Michael Zwack, ’71, died of cancer on May 5, 2017, in New York City. He was 67. The Buffalo native was an internationally exhibited artist and member of the famed Pictures Generation. As a Buffalo State student, he helped establish the Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. Larry Lundy, ’78—Zwack’s friend and fellow artist—wrote to 1300 Elmwood to share a few memories and a poem.

How do I tell you about Michael Zwack? It’s sort of blurry, like his famous photo- booth pictures in which he played with motion, flailing his arms back and forth. Mike and I happened to run into each other at the King’s Department store on Hertel Avenue on a Friday night in the ’70s. That’s how we met. It turned out that he and I both lived in nearby Black Rock. Michael, ever the cultural renegade, was a cofounder of Hallwalls with Cindy Sherman, Charles Clough, Nancy Dwyer, Diane Bertolo, Robert Longo, and myself. He was a sculptor and a painter who played with images, symbols, and surface treatment, and also became a vodou priest. Michael was a generous man and an eccentric artist imbued with endless magic. Sadly, when Michael passed, he left behind his Haitian-born wife, Michelle, and stepdaughter, Kettia, 13. A fundraising effort is currently under way to archive his work and make sure it continues to get out there in the world.

Michael characterized his own work like this: “I choose my images from the world. All I do is embellish them. I don’t
want to give myself the power of ultimate creation. I’m just a reporter. I’m just trying to bracket what it is that I believe I understand.”

Upon Michael’s passing, I wrote this poem.

Untitled Poem for Mike Zwack
May 28, 2017

Gliding down Amherst
towards the demon eyes
of the Polish church
embracing the river wind

In the storefront that
once was yours
now transformed
into a vacant lot
a smoothened shell
welcoming itself to
the roar of a great sea
Michael, fellow traveler
who rang vodou bells
with sweet/
sour blues

A company of fools
who worship sunrise
and all that follows.
your echoes fill my soul

—LP Lundy, ’78

For more on Zwack’s work, please visit https://vimeo.com/47326097 and www.freundevonfreunden.com/interviews/michael-zwack.

Found in: Letters

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