David L. Beck

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - LIFE TRIBUTES -

We mourn the loss of an ex­tra­or­di­nary artist and friend on Oc­to­ber 23, to lung can­cer. David lived in Man­hat­tan af­ter his grad­u­a­tion from Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity (1976), but spent the last 30-some years in San Fran­cisco. His ear­lier work tended to­wards boxes whose in­te­ri­ors con­tained puns, sur­real sce­nar­ios and char­ac­ters an­i­mated by hand­made pul­lies and crankshafts. Larger con­struc­tions in­cluded full-scale beasts whose bel­lies dis­played vit­rines of sim­i­larly cu­ri­ous mise-en-scene. Later work be­came in­creas­ingly large, ar­chi­tec­tural and in­tri­cate: “Movie Palace” and “MVSEVM” be­long to the Smith­so­nian Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art, oth­ers are in pri­vate col­lec­tions. The ob­ses­sive crafts­man­ship of Beck’s work in­cludes hand­crafted mov­ing parts, il­lu­mi­na­tions, hid­den el­e­ments and work­ing mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. Re­cent pieces draw from (and add to) the nat­u­ral world with the in­ven­tion of in­sects, mam­mals, and aquatic crea­tures of or­ganic beauty whose ex­posed and pre­cisely-wrought mech­a­nisms create a par­al­lel work of aes­thetic en­chant­ment. The charm­ingly in­el­e­gant Dodo bird served David as a life­long muse. David played sax­o­phone and com­posed with the bassist, Bill No­ertker, as The Me­lan­choholics. David was a unique per­son­al­ity: un­der­stated, charm­ing, re­served, watch­ful and un- end­ingly cu­ri­ous; eru­dite yet drawn to­wards the naive; he was a sly joke-teller with a bone-dry sense of hu­mor, a bane to tele-mar­keters, an avid flea mar­ket shop­per and an in­cred­i­bly warm and car­ing friend. He leaves a girl­friend, Sid­ney Rus­sell and her fam­ily, a birth fam­ily, a cho­sen fam­ily, and a bril­liant con­stel­la­tion of de­voted friends some­how lucky or de­serv­ing enough to have earned his friend­ship, feel­ing bereft of him al­ready. Photo credit to Marie Chao.

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