by Kay Rosen
I just wanted to share a few thoughts and memories about Jeff. It was a great, great privilege to work with him as his grad advisor here during the first semesters of his first and second year. I felt we bonded from the first meeting. At first it was because of his use of language in his work and because he was from Indiana, but I came to admire and appreciate so much more about Jeff as an extremely talented and passionate artist, and as the lovely and interesting person that he was.
Besides his great intellectual capability, Jeff was an elegant painter. He wasn’t content to finesse only the conceptual aspects of his paintings, but also their material application. Techniques and materials were as much his content as the subject of his paintings were. We had so many conversations about lettering brushes and paints, especially that stinky 1-Shot lettering enamel in the little yellow cans, which he loved. Jeff was intensely interested in learning and trying new things that would advance his painting. He enthusiastically researched through his practice many inventive and unique mark making processes and applications and their juncture with the image, how the two joined or might join in a perfect tension. He even hoped to apprentice with my sign painter one day so he could learn tricks of the trade.
Humor was also important to Jeff in his own work and in the work of others, and he was great at it. He was exploring how to use humor in his work and how to be ‘funny’ without using text. The following anecdote, although using text, is a great example of Jeff’s sharp wit. I once showed him an unusual phrase I had ‘discovered’ in which three words that were written in a grid read the same way horizontally and vertically:
N O T
O N E
T E N
I said, “Look at this! I don’t know how I even came up with it, but I can’t think of any other examples.”
I don’t know if Jeff’s response was something he had been slyly holding up his sleeve or if it was spontaneous, but he efficiently one-upped me by scrawling on a piece of paper:
Y E S
E Y E
S E E
I have been fortunate to work with second year grad students at SAIC during my twenty something years here, and I never fail to be impressed by how hard they work, how mature they are, and how accomplished they become by the time their MFA show rolls around. Jeff was no exception. Never content to rest on his many successes, he continued to search for his most authentic voice. Of course as we know, that is a lifelong pursuit, and from the beginning Jeff set up for himself so many challenges and then met them honestly, tirelessly, and with the highest standards. Even after he withdrew last semester, he wasn’t ready to give up art, so he soaked it up in other ways, like going to Art Basel Miami. We wrote back and forth a little from there, and he was as engaged as ever. I don’t think he could have been any more sincere or passionate about art than he was at this point in time, or received more joy from it, and I try to find some comfort in that.
I will miss him.
Along with family, friends and the generous support of the SAIC community the Geesa family has established the Jeffrey Geesa Memorial Scholarship Fund to support merit-based scholarships for SAIC students.
Contributions to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in loving memory of Jeff Geesa (MFA 2015), may be directed to the Jeffrey Geesa Memorial Scholarship Fund. If you are interested in supporting the fund please contact Katy Solomon, Associate Director of Individual Giving at (312) 499-4193 or firstname.lastname@example.org or give online at saic.edu/give.