"Will you remember me when I'm gone? Will you remember me for coining the term 'butch pageantry?' This is all I ask of you, my children. Go forth and proselytize."Mark Aguhar on her blog, BLOGGING FOR BROWN GURLS
Beloved artist and friend Mark Aguhar died March 12 at the age of 24. Aguhar was in her last semester in the M.F.A. program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She moved to Chicago from Houston. A funeral Mass was held March 19 at St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church in Houston.
Aguhar was a visual and performance artist, poet, call-out queen, brother, sister, friend and so much more.
"[The week of Mark's death] has been, without a doubt, monumentally life changing," said Owen Daniel-McCarter at Aguhar's memorial, which took place March 17 at the Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center. "It's been a week of profound tragedy, losing such a beautiful creaturesomeone that I personally considered a friend, an inspiration, a kindred spirit, a go-go dancer and a revolutionary.
"It's been a week that has proved to me that one life can change and affect many other lives and that one soul can bring many other souls together with her voice, with image, with performance, with laughter, with makeup, with sweaters, with Mariah Carey, and with realness."
"Mark was a sister to me," said Steve Hnilicka at the event. "I've never met anyone as beautiful as [Mark] ever and I will keep [her] with me always and let [her] lift me up even when we tumble and fall and our wings fall off and we look a messI keep [her] with me."
At the memorial, Macon Reed and Michael Sirianni read a letter written by Jennifer Reeder, director of graduate studies for the program Mark was in at UIC.
"I first met Mark about two years agoshe had just been accepted into our M.F.A. program," wrote Reeder. "Her application portfolio consisted entirely of figurative watercolor drawings of soft brown and pink bodies with and without dicks in little romantic piles…
"As a graduate student at UIC and a very serious one Mark continued to draw, but her work evolved into writing, performance, sculpture, installation, garments, knots, dye, shoes, mascara, eyebrows, hair, hair, hair. Her life was her art. … [W]e all know that Mark was fiercely smart, an intellectual who appreciated the critical dialogue around her. … I am working with the staff at in the college of architecture and arts to ensure that Mark's degree will be conferred posthumously and that her name will be announced at the commencement in May along with her classmates. This will confirm what so many of you have always known that Mark is a master."
Fellow UIC art student Neal Vandenbergh said, "The fact that she was 24 years old and such an innovative … clear but totally complex body of work. I can never forget that you can be as smart as a whip and talk about the densest theory in the same sentence that you cry about Mariah Carey. And now I cry about Mariah Carey, which I never thought I would…
"Mark taught me that one can be extremely critical and that doesn't have to end in hating everyone. You can be simultaneously so critical and confrontational and so loving and understanding of individual people."
On behalf of Chances Dances, Allison Burque said, "Mark's presence was an unmistakable light in the dark club. Reflecting on our memories of Mark in the Chances space we've come to a larger realization. … Mark didn't simply enjoy the safe space of Chances, Mark was the safe space of Chances. She contributed something truly brave. She looked within herself, embraced what was inside and shared that gift with us. The identities that society fails to embrace, Mark brought to the surface and owned with every ounce of her fabulous being.
"She showed everyone at Chances the beauty and power in defying expectations set before us. With Mark's inspiration people at those nights could find love and light in the things we were told could never be just that."
Aguhar's close friend Juana Paola Peralta said, "I just want to say that we love you, Mark. Thank you for being such a shiny bright star that never didn't allow other people to shine brightly and encourage other people to shine brightly. We love you and you're still here in our hearts."
A memorial page has been created in Mark's honor to "support Mark's family and create a dialogue for those grieving the loss of Mark." To donate to the memorial fund, visit www.gofundme.com/h1lp4.
Aguhar's work will be included in "Torch Song" the 2012 UIC Art MFA Thesis Exhibition 2. The opening reception will be Friday, March 30, 5-8 p.m., at Gallery 400, l400 S. Peoria St.
Aguhar's artwork can be viewed at www.markaguhar.com; her blog is at calloutqueen.tumblr.com .