Carnegie Mellon's own

This is a letter I just wrote for a teacher of mine who was just appointed to Carnegie Mellon. He was an amazing teacher and I sincerely hope that I have conveyed my affection for him through the letter. I plan on visiting him in mid-september sometime to see a bunch of good lectures and shows, including Jacques Derrida. Anyone want to meet up in Pittsburgh?

It is a difficult task to write on behalf of Andrew Johnson. I feel that I am not properly proving the impact Andrew has had on my work, my life and the life of my work, by simply doing what was asked. Simply writing, printing and mailing a page of thoughts about my teacher, has nothing to do with going above and is chapters short of beyond. This is not the type of response that you should expect from any former student of Andrew’s regardless of their propensity toward Art. Andrew’s lessons go well above and see way beyond. You will not receive status quo from students of Andrew Johnson.
I felt for a short time that Andrew had seen something in me that he chose to cultivate. This was true. This was true for the other fifteen individuals in my class as well. I spent hours after class and before class with Andrew, talking listening and learning. I remember specifically talking about drawing one evening. We were speaking of the desire to continue to draw, the pleasure of not stopping. I told him that I wished my sketchbook had more pages in it. Andrew’s ability to assess a problem and come up with a creative and productive solution is uncanny. He told me about an exercise he had participated in that entailed filling 500 sheets of paper in one sitting. “Bring food and water,” he said. Three days later, with baggy eyes and a cup of coffee, I was floating in the atrium of the University of Buffalo amidst a sea of 500 tangled scribbles and colors, feeling that I had accomplished the task. This exercise was repeated a semester later as an extra-curricular event with an entire class. I quickly understood that with Andrew the task is never finished. The steps that lead toward its completion will be watched carefully, guided masterfully and encouraged constantly, but what fun is there in being done? He may have even asked me why I had done all of these drawings as if we had never spoken of it. This is where the absorption takes place. There is a self-searching that comes naturally when in the company of Andrew. I saw it happen to myself as well as students that magically transformed over the course of a semester when most thought it was not possible.
I was fortunate enough to work with Andrew on one of his installations. There is a constant persistence in Andrew that bleeds comfortably into other sectors of life. I mean, if you could have heard some of the music we sat through while we sprayed patina on rectangles you would more easily understand. He is always searching for something, perhaps because he is always learning from something.
I believe that the University at Buffalo is greatly indebted to him. First, for his ability to frustrate, implicate and educate, faculty and students. He was nicknamed “The Ubiquitous Andrew Johnson” while I was in school because he was everywhere. Sometimes laughing, sometimes eating, sometimes writing in that secret notebook of his, but always, he was teaching. It would not be uncommon to find him in unlikely places showing a student something or being shown something by a student.
Second, the University owes Andrew overtime. I have been a student of Andrew’s for almost five years now. He has been there with advice, updates, recommendations to plays, openings, and music, as well as wasabi covered snacks. I am overwhelmingly excited about Andrew’s placement at Carnegie Mellon. I sincerely hope that Carnegie Mellon will give him a wider range of students to move and I would encourage you as faculty to challenge Andrew. Like his students, you will not receive status quo (but you could accrue some over time charges). As for my relationship with Andrew, it is a long-term task that shows no signs of completion.