It had been over a year since I’d seen Sue—a year in which she had been diagnosed with and received treatment for lymphoma, spending her days alternately in hospital rooms and her studio when she wasn’t too weak and ill from chemo. If she hadn’t told me, though, I would never have known she’d been sick when I walked through the front door of her Patterson Park row house.
I was greeted as usual by her sweet dog Ralphie, a Lhasa Apso, and by Sue herself, stylish and gregarious as ever, donning bold patterns and one of the strange and fabulous necklaces she makes in spite of the rheumatoid arthritis that has caused her so much pain throughout her life. The signature evil eye seemed to wink at me. We embraced, each apologetic for the long hiatus in our visits.
I met Sue nearly twenty years ago at one of John Waters’ Christmas parties when I was still married to my first husband. He and I used our savings to buy art in those days, and our friendship began in earnest when we purchased a crayon piece she had made of writer Gary Indiana from her show The Nuthouse Drawings at Creative Alliance. The picture hangs in my office, still arresting me every time I look at it: the movement and color capture the author’s snarling demeanor, bloodshot eyes cut from photographs pasted in place. According to Sue, she had originally given the picture to John for Christmas, but he allowed us to purchase it, taking a different one for himself. We paid $300. Even in the early 2000’s, this was a steal.