Tom Little photo of Mark, Amy and Simon Bloch circa 1995. We used it for our holiday card that year.

Thoughts on Tom

by Mark Bloch

August 18, 2006


I first want to give my love to Syl, Sam and Travis from me, my wife Amy and my son, Simon. I am sorry we cannot be there today, because I am in Venice, Italy on an art residency. But greetings from all three of us from across the ocean. Further proof that love for Tom knows no bounds.

Amy and Simon both adored Tom. When he lived on East 5th Street we used to see him around.

He would appear out of nowhere with a big hello and some funny remark—whether we were standing at a bus stop at 7:30 in the morning or buying a container of ice cream at 10 at night or just walking down the streets of the East Village.

Tom would be the first one to be very happy we are in Venice today. I don’t think I ever had a chance to tell him I was planning on going but if I would’ve he would have asked me all sorts of questions and been very happy for me.

That’s one of the things Tom and I did. He used to enjoy telling me about his little artmaking and art world triumphs. And I told him mine. It was that we were very happy for each other, proud of each other. I saw him very early on in that Chuck Close book, and I was glad I got to congratulate him on it before he had a chance to tell me about it. And it is good he got to do that kind of work, to show what he could do. Because he was good. Maybe that was the pinnacle of his art world career—to be able to be involved in something like that. But he did a great many things and he was appropriately very proud of them.

Tom was a very precise person who enjoyed doing things in a very precise, deliberate way. Ask him a question and he would draw you a little sketch of what he meant.

He was a very visual person. I remember being aware pretty early on that people perceive things differently because of Tom. Tom was describing the ceiling of a place we had been and I had no idea what the ceiling looked like. It was then that realized that he was visual and I was something else. I would remember what a room felt like. What the atmosphere was like. He could describe the way it looked in great detail. I admired that.

But yeah he was proud of his art world accomplishments. He was proud to have one of Bill DeKooning’s paint brushes he received as a gift and he was just as proud of his own paintings. He was proud of the tattoos he made out his own artwork. He was a hell of an artist and I would like to see a bunch of his art gathered together at some point so we can look at it.

He made some nice graphics for a little mimeographed zine I made in 1977. A couple years later he was sending me very nice collages on envelopes from New York when I lived in Califoirnia.

Then when I moved to New York and lived at M’bwebwe on 2nd Avenue he and I shared a studio. He had gotten married and moved his residence across the street—to East First Street—with Sylvia and so we shared one of the big rooms at the loft. I remember going over to Tom and Syl’s and that is where I first saw Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It was the 80s, you know.

Anyway, Tom was a fantastic guy and a fantastic friend. He was also a funny guy. I cannot speed through this period of our lives without mentioning the music we made together. Together we bought a little Tascam 4 track recorder and had a lot of fun with it. If I were there today I would treat you to Tom making up a lyric on the spot that went like this: “HE’S GREEN. HE’S GUMBY.” I think those were all the words.

The first thing I remember about him was his face. His big smile. It was very early in our friendship—Kent State University in 1974. There were lots of other guys there too I think but I don’t remember them, just Tom. That was the first time I became familiar with him via his big smile. We were college freshmen.

When Tom passed last month it just so happens I was moving out the studio I’ve had since 1982 when I moved out of M’bwebwe. It occurred to me that if I would have needed him to help me move he would have complained and then he would have been there—right on time and done anything I asked. He was not a flake. You could count on him. He always showed up when he said he would, his honor was important to him. He had a very strong sense of that.

I am sorry to have to admit that Tom and I didn’t meet up for quite a while. I think the last time I saw him I showed up at his job one morning unannounced. A big mistake on my part. He was perturbed and he told me so but he was also magnanimous about it. We caught up on what was going on in each other’s lives and then I left. Then in recent weeks we had a plan via email to get together because I was working near him but unfortunately that never happened.

It was about a year ago that I went out to Brooklyn and we went to Williamsburg galleries together, just he and I. Then we went out to dinner at a Chinese or Thai restraunt. I didn’t know that would be the last quality time we’d have together. We spoke on the phone and emailed here and there but I guess you could say I took seeing him for granted.

Life throws us curve balls but I must say I never saw this one coming. Thanks for the face time we did have. God bless you Tommy wherever you are. I will miss you buddy.