Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Last week I lost a couple of friends—not close friends, but talented ones.

Last Saturday, Larry Chandler died suddenly of pneumonia at age 55. Larry was a skilled wildlife artist, who was probably best known for his conservation stamp design of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, titled Elusive Ivory(above, right). He also designed a license plate commemorating the bird. He worked closely with famed woodpecker hunter Bobby Harrison, of Alabama's Oakwood College, for many months, developing quickly into an obsessive and knowledgeable Ivorybill enthusiast. He was one of the first people to view David Luneau's Arkansas woodpecker videotape, and I'm grateful to him for spilling the beans in my direction several months before news about the footage was released. He was an ardent defender of the video until the end. In addition to his painting skills, Larry was a very solid drummer. I had a great time playing in an impromptu blues band with him at the 2000 ArtLink convention in Orlando, Florida. Larry and his wife Donna lost their daughter Lara in a car crash last September.

One week before Larry's death, 49-year-old comedian Richard Jeni died in Hollywood, an apparent suicide. I worked with Richard on his 1992 HBO Special Platypus Man, designing an animated platypus character. He was great fun to work with: considerate, interesting, and always extremely funny. Being unhappy while in his company was impossible. How ironic. His 1990 Showtime special, The Boy from New York City is required viewing. Standup comedy doesn't get any better. Sad as it is to have lost these two talented men, their legacies live on in strong bodies of work. We should all be so lucky.