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Susan Searls remembers Guy's time and dedication with the students at Rochester School for the Deaf.
June 16, 2021
In preparing this, I realized that I really didn’t know Guy all that well. But he was there during some very important times of my life, and always made an impact. He was a friend of my spirit, even though our journey together on Earth was brief.
The first time I met him was at Spectrum, in Austin. I was new to the Deaf World, and had only been signing for a few months. I’m usually the outsider wherever I go, but Spectrum people accepted me more than others. All of them, Guy in particular, never talked down to me, and never modified his ASL use for my benefit. He expected me to get to a place where I understood him, and I did. I also appreciated how he made me feel included.
The first work of art that I saw of Guy’s was a very small piece that was hanging on the wall at Spectrum the first week I worked in the office.
It was a landscape with a mountain in the distance, and he’d created it out of torn paper and cardboard. He used the exposed crenelations of the cardboard to create texture and distance. I asked about it, found out it was his and told him how much I loved it. He seemed kind of surprised. He’d done it quickly, as kind of a throwaway, a sketch, and didn’t seem to think much of it. But I hadn’t seen anything like it before and loved it.
I got to know Guy better during Deaf Way in 1989. By then Betty G. Miller and I had fallen in love, and Betty and Guy were good friends. Guy came to Gallaudet in May for the “What is Deaf Art?” workshop, and stayed through the festival in July, working on his sculptures.
Guy was a lot of fun, a great hugger, and when I saw more of him that summer, I found a more serious dimension to Guy. Especially during the workshop, the creative artist part of him was in action, along with the helpful, can-do attitude he brought to everything.
The last time I saw him in person was at the De’VIA Reunion in Chicago five years ago. Again, lots of good, wide-ranging, deep talks. And a lot of laughs. He was also making his own CBD oil at the time, and helped my arthritic finger.
None of us knows what happens after we die. For me, it’s comforting to imagine Guy with Betty and a lot of friends hanging around and creating together in the Deaf Artists community beyond the stars.
Thank you, Guy, for sharing your spirit with us, and for the memories and the art you left with us.
Alex Wilhite remember's his time with Guy in New York City and what an amazing role model and mentor Guy was.
More than any one person at the time, he made the New York scene for Deaf gays and lesbians famous. All the while we worked together for New York Deaf Theatre (NYDT), we also fought for Deaf artivism such as captioning, Deaf roles in the TV/film industry, museum accessibility, and so forth.
Guy had a true gift for makeup design as well and could transform any wallflower into a glam queen regardless of gender identity or orientation. He worked tirelessly to be the best dressed, fashion forward Deaf person around and dragged us all to his elevated level of couture. He always knew how to make any outfit better, and how to make any friend stand out more to get the job, or to impress for the date or event. Some of his work is famously remembered: the half-and-half outfits he made and the makeup work he did for himself and others— outfits showing half the face and body as female and the other half as male. As a master costumer, tailor and set designer, Guy’s work on window displays was demanding of all of his skills which he generously shared with the Deaf gay community as much as possible.
Remember that Guy Wonder was also an innovator and one of the earliest openly gay advocates and soldiers of the national gay rights movement. But he was so very humble that he often did much of the work with little to no credit— and left it up to others to even mention his involvement. Had the AIDS epidemic not decimated the Deaf gay community, there would be hundreds of photos and comments now about how important he was to the scene at that time. He was there to mark their passing and host their memorials and comfort their families and friends— but those many accolades that should be there for him now were silenced by the epidemic long before the life of the wonder that was Guy ended.
We love you, Guy Wonder, and will forever miss you, my Washington brother.
In the photo taken in Camp Aspen at a Deaf Artist Retreat in 2014, many artists used the old style Deaf photography where people identified themselves with the first letter of their last name. In this photo Guy Wonder (in white hat and striped top) raises his hand in "W" handshape.
Photo courtesy of Ellen Mansfield (sitting in the first row with hot pink sleeves and a vest)
Jackie Schertz remembers Guy Wonder's trip to Rochester and his collaboration with the Rochester School for the Deaf and the Memorial Art Gallery.
For questions or assistance please contact the RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center at firstname.lastname@example.org