I really hate writing posts like this. I hate the occasion of thinking about someone’s life and trying to sum up what they meant to you and how they impacted your life, knowing that you can’t possibly find the right words to convey who that person was, how your life is different because of them. All you can find are pieces.
My first thought about Liz Lunde is always how strikingly beautiful she is. Was? The past tense still feels so strange to me; my mind still isn’t processing this new reality. She had this classically beautiful face, like she had just stepped out of a 40s film noir, lots of angles and pouty lips and mischievous eyes. She could do a look that was straight up femme fatale, or vintage sweetness, or rockabilly. She was always transforming her physical persona, and every image was startling and interesting and gorgeous.
But it was never just about her face. I always had great conversations with Liz. They were vulgar and irreverent and smart. So fucking smart. She could be caustic and playful at the same time, and she loved to laugh. She loved bad words; I can’t remember very many conversations, whether at a party or an arts event, that didn’t include the word “fuck” (I, a fellow pottymouth, always appreciated this verbal abandon). Liz knew that there were people who might get caught up in the vulgar language and miss the fact that she always had something real and intelligent to say, and she didn’t care. If someone was too interested in propriety to see past a few four-letter words to what was actually being communicated, then fuck them. I don’t think she swore so much to cause a reaction, and I know she didn’t do it because she wasn’t smart (she was one of the most fabulously intellectual individuals I’ve had the pleasure of knowing); she struck me as a sort of a John-Waters-type: she recognized vulgarity as another form of communication, and she spoke it fluently.
She was intensely passionate: about art, about relationships, about living. When she did something, she did it fully; when she was done with something, it was absolutely over. She tended towards extremes. And her art, what I’ve seen of it, was multi-faceted, quirky, and sly. Many of the pieces had a fabulous humor to them; I could imagine her working on it while raising one of her gorgeously arched eyebrows. Many of them also had a certain sadness to them. Passionate people are often some of the saddest because the world, with its tendency to run into the mundane, always disappoints. I had meant to pick up a piece of her art when she was part of a showing at the Blue Door Gallery, but the space was busy and I thought I would have time to come back later, or to talk to Liz about purchasing a piece. That’s one of my failings: I always assume there will be more time.
Time gets away from me. I wish I could remember exactly how I met Liz, but it’s lost. I feel like I’ve known her forever. I remember her as a punky, artsy kid who hung around downtown. I remember her at some random house parties while I was in college. I remember talking with her at Writers Conferences. I didn’t always see her often, but when I did, it was like absolutely no time had passed. I remember when Bebe Zahara Benet from RuPaul’s Drag Race came to campus; Liz loved drag queens and tagged along with a group of us to IHOP for breakfast, and it was the closest I had ever seen tough, confident, in-your-face Liz to being starstruck. I remember chatting with her on Facebook about how absolutely fabulous OCC’s Lip Tar is. I remember seeing her downtown somewhere a week or so before she was set to head to Minneapolis for art school; I remember seeing her again when she was back home after her diagnosis. I know she had to have been scared, but what I saw of her was mostly her public face which was determined and fierce. You couldn’t know her and not be affected by her presence. She was a force of nature, and I always thought of her as unstoppable. That’s another of my failings: deep down, I always have a naïve belief that things will turn out the way we’d like them to. In tarot correspondences, my birthday aligns with The Star, which is the card that symbolizes hope. And by hope, I am often blinded.
I don’t know what these memories, these pieces of a life, add up to. I don’t feel equal to the task. All I can do is share them. And as others share their memories, their pieces, we can try to put them all together into some sort of picture. Try to create some meaning out of a situation that feels not only meaningless, but stupid and unfair. But we share them, and we grieve, and we keep trying to create meaning, because that’s what we do. It’s in our nature.
Tags: Art School, Artist, Bebe Benet, Bebe Zahara Benet, Blue Door Gallery, cancer, Cancer Sucks, Elizabeth Lunde, Fuck Cancer, Gone Too Soon, Grand Forks, Janessa, Janessa J, Janessa J Champagne, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, John Waters, Lip Tar, Liz Lunde, Minneapolis, Miss Jaye, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, OCC Lip Tar, photography, RuPaul's Drag Race, The Hub, The Hub Bar, UND Writers Conference, Urban Stampede, World of Champagne