Mimi Hart Silver

I want to make a special post for a brilliant mind, artist and friend whose soul has left us. She held great wisdom even at a very young age. Here is my story of Mimi.

Coffer, watercolor & ink on paper, 2013, Mimi Hart Silver

It was my Senior year in high school. She was two years older than me and we grew up in the same town on the Outer Banks, NC. Her Dad was a painter and I interned at the gallery her Mom owned that showed his work. The family was kind to me and let me into their lives that year and following Summer. Mimi had already lived in New York City for a few years working as a fashion model. She was tall and beautiful in an unusual way. She was magnetic but she didn’t want attention. She wanted truth. The gallery was exciting for me because they had art openings with brie cheese where everyone dressed classy. The paintings were beautiful to me. Their family was cultured.

I was heading to art school in New York City that coming Fall and she must have been a huge influence on me, and gave me confidence to go away from home to study art in New York, just by way of letting me be her friend because she was the coolest person I had ever met. For my birthday, she bought me a 1 year subscription to W Magazine so I would be inspired by current fashion. I remember loving Prada best. We had sleepovers at her parent’s wooden handmade house with tall rafter ceilings. She had a huge abstract painting above her bed. The painter had told her he painted it after having the best sex of his life. She played jazz vinyl records and told me how Louis Armstrong had cried on her grandfather’s shoulder when he was on tour early in his career- worrying he would never make it big. She loved SNL. While in NYC prior, she had made a best friend who looked like her identical twin. They met in a women hostile and were inseparable when together. I remember her showing me a photobooth photo of them together, flashing the camera. She said she ate her french fries so fast like someone was going to steal them.

In that period of her life she always wore red cowboy boots. They were slim fit, antique, well worn so they fit like butter- I’ve never seen a pair as cool since, but just imagine the girl in Footloose’s boots. She showed me a drawing she made of her boots and I was in awe. She didn’t at the time care to be an artist, but would do stuff like that once in a while for fun. She took a polaroid of her fried egg every morning. She confided in me that she was having problems with her Father, but I didn’t understand because I thought he was nice. I probably even said something dumb like, “Really? He’s always been nice to me.” Some listener I was then! I was oblivious of trauma at that point and couldn’t grasp it. But she always had depth and sensitivity to right and wrong.

One night that Summer we went out for ice cream at Snowbird’s by the beach. There was a gay couple in line in front of us. We lived in such a small, conservative town that I had never seen an openly gay person before. I’m embarrassed to admit I said to her, “Is he GAY!?” and giggled. She looked at me dead serious and told me that gay people were good people just like anyone and to never judge them. Then we ate our ice cream on the roof of an abandoned motel that you could simply walk up via sand dunes.

I remember seeing her in New York City when I was going to school there- she was the coolest person on the subway… even in NYC she was the coolest person you would see! We went to her apartment in Brooklyn before I even knew the Williamsburg Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge. She told me that I would meet a different hot guy every night and go home with him if I wanted to. I thought ok, great! But honestly no boy was interested in me for probably three or four years after that. She worked at a vintage shop on 6th avenue and 10th street where I met her coworker friend who had performed drag at David Bowie’s birthday party. He acted like it was no big deal to know DB.

Mimi was very private and would disappear from your life for a while. I saw her probably 8 years later when I heard she had moved back to New York City. I invited her for a drink at a tiki bar in Bed Stuy. She was recently married. She bought me top shelf whiskey and we toasted. I was dating someone at the time who was becoming volatile and have manic fits of meanness. I told her about it, saying he had been abused as a child and had a hard life. She again gave me a hard look and said, “My husband had the most difficult childhood of anyone I’ve ever met, and he is also the kindest person I have ever met.” And that being mean is inexcusable and is not love. She gave me a recap of her last decade, saying she had studied art and had a lot of success as a painter (and seriously- she was an art star in Atlanta- her work was purchased by museums and she was represented by a huge gallery), but would still have to work as a bartender to barely make ends meet. She didn’t think the sacrifice was worth it. I hadn’t seen any of her art and it wasn’t until last year when I looked it up. More on that in a bit.

She told me that she didn’t want to be an artist anymore, that art didn’t add any value to the world or have a function. She said her father was a narcissist and a terrible artist because artists HAVE to be kind, generous people to make good art, otherwise it’s empty or a lie. She said she was going to school again for architecture so she could make something useful and contribute to society.

That was six years ago, and the last time I saw her. She disappeared from me again into her extremely dedicated and ambitious life, and this time to successfully became a brilliant architect. Whatever she did, she did it all the way.

When I heard about a year ago that she was in an accident and had brain damage, I was devastated. How in the hell could something like that happen to someone who is so real and true and brilliant and greater for genuine reasons!?

I googled her, missing her- wanting something tangible to revisit my memory of her. I found many articles about her art in Atlanta.

Monarch, 60×84, 2013, oil on canvas by Mimi Silver
Lineage, 13.5 x 33 inches, mixed media on paper, Mimi Silver
Mimi in her studio, 2013

I found this interview from a few weeks before her solo show opened at White Space gallery in Atlanta in 2013. In the interview, she is well spoken, sure of her ideas, full of art history references, and is honest about the darkness in her life and that it inspires her painting. I think now she would feel like she has grown up a lot since this interview. I love hearing her perspective of how where we grew up informs her art,

“I grew up on a string of barrier islands in North Carolina called the Outer Banks. It felt like the fringe or a frontier. Life and death seemed more apparent there because everyday life was shaped directly by the environment and the weather. It was impossible not to be effected.”

There are many brilliant quotes in her interview. She knows exactly which artists influence her and why. She says Anselm Kiefer is her favorite artist. (There is a new documentary about him out now by Wim Wenders and I am going to see it in theaters in her honor. I know she would go if she could.)

Now she has left this earthly realm and her spirit is wildly and intensely soaring through the ether like her pursuit of her art and architecture. I made her an oil painting this past Winter and delivered it to her family to give to her. I painted it from life, on my studio window. I let the roses wilt, painting a different bloom each day, to record the process of decay. I thought of her then as I do now: a brilliant light in my life, with memories as highlights in my timeline.

Avec Mimi, 26×15, 2023, oil on canvas by me for Mimi

I love you Mimi.

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