Friday, August 22, 2014

Agnes Welsh Eyster, Dear Friend

I have a very good friend who is dying. Right now, as I write. Agnes Welsh Eyster is in hospice in San Antonio, after a fight with lymphoma that just keeps spreading. I love this woman. We've shared so many good times together. I cannot stand the fact that she is dying and with her, all that style and talent and warmth.
My friend Martha introduced us a decade ago, saying, "You two will love each other." And Martha was right. Martha's first cousin was Dick Eyster and Dick married this Corpus Christi girl from the Maverick clan and brought her to San Antonio where he practiced oil and gas law and they raised three children. Aggie had an artistic grandmother and Aggie takes after her. For a time, she painted stunning watercolors.
Dick Eyster
Then she stopped painting altogether (which Dickie lamented) and turned to metal work, etching with acid, creating great stretches of sheet metal covered with geometric, plant inspired patterns and extra virgin olive oil images. The patterned metal covered her deep freeze, became a porch table top, a back splash in her kitchen.
She accepted commissions.  In 2011, after I was selected as lead artist for the public art component of the Houston Permitting Center, I chose Aggie to design metal panels for the main lobby's reception desk. Her design for the center panel reflects Houston's Buffalo Bayou and its natural terrain. The two side panels suggest gritty urban life. She and her nephew Doyle delivered the panels to the fabricator in Houston in a rented van to be set into the reception desk. The results are exquisite and classy.
Aggie was one of nine artists in Second Seating, that 2009 installation of mine. She made etched metal table tops for four pedestal tables and covered them with luminarios made from cut out aluminum cans. I wish I'd purchased one of these tables. I'd be eating off it every day.
Aggie hand dyed fabrics and then covered them with stamped and appliqued patterns. Made all her own clothes with soft cottons and linens. Wore huipiles and Birkenstocks and eye glasses on a beaded chain.
When Martha took me to San Antonio to meet Aggie the first time, her house and garden enveloped me with its layered patterning and endless tableaus. Aggie's home and garden are living, changing collections of the things she loves and does best. I've visited many times since, and always, her house and garden enchant.
Aggie's vegetable garden is overrun with arugula and purslane. Her Meyer lemon tree is fecund. Each summer the fig tree in her front garden is laden with fruit. The tiny guest room next to her studio is homey and comfortable, its windows covered with artfully draped and well worn table linens that filter morning light beautifully.
And there is nothing nicer than sitting at Aggie's art deco kitchen table, watching her prepare a meal, taking small bits of wrapped cheeses and produce from her refrigerator, laying slices of good bread on the rack of a well used toaster oven and then chopping and mixing it all up on that small butcher block.
Aggie's blue patterned Mexican dishes, fine old silver and well worn napkins all add to the feeling that this particular meal is surely the tastiest we've eaten in a long, long time.
In early spring 2012, Aggie called and asked if I would join her on a two week trip to Paris. Her niece Bea (Vita Wells) and partner Michelle offered an apartment near Pompidou Center. I dithered until my daughter Mary B said, "Mom, think of the trip as a 70th birthday present to yourself."
I called Aggie immediately, "Yes, I will go to Paris." And what days we spent, exploring, finding our way on Metro, walking miles, eating simply and well.  And seeing, seeing, seeing.
Aggie and me on the steps of Sacre Coeur, July 2012.
So, here's to you, my good friend Aggie. I treasure every moment spent with you. A very good time was had by all.


10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I have know Aggie since I was 2 ( I am 45 now). Your descriptions of the wonderful home and experiences there are so true.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the wonderful tribute to my mother.
John Eyster

Anonymous said...

Beautiful tribute Martha. I knew of Aggie through my mother Marilu Reiffert, who also was an artist,and passed from complications of non hodgkin's lymphoma. My mother thought so highly of her, rightly so. When Aggie walked into a room the light became brighter and cheerful.

MMH said...

My dear friend Martha Northington introduced me to Aggie. Martha and Dickie were first cousins. It was I, not Martha, who wrote this blog post. And you are absolutely right - when Aggie walked into a room the light became brighter.

MMH said...

Thank you. Aggie was a very special and talented woman. I will miss her so much.

MMH said...

Thank you for reading this post. Aggie was simply wonderful and I will miss her so.

Anonymous said...

This was a beautiful tribute to my mother. Thank you! Maury

Maggie Eyster said...

particularly missing my grandma tonight. thank you

MMH said...

So glad you came across this blog post about your grandmother. Not a day goes by that I don't think about Aggie. She was a quite wonderful woman and I miss her very much. Are you John's daughter?

MMH said...

Here is a link to another post about Aggie: http://rockbridgetimes.blogspot.com/2014/09/even-though.html