JOHN (KIP) BRADY had permanently tousled hair, a mischievous grin and a look of puckered concentration before he spoke. He was the kind of person who would get down on the floor in his suit and wrestle with the cat. In fact, a few days before he died, while we were on our way to Percy Martin's print workshop, he described to me his elaborate plan to scare the wits out of my cat with a mechanical monkey.
Kip was the kind of person who would take home sparrows that had managed to become trapped behind the radiators in Jane Haslem's gallery, or drive a friend home even if it was miles out of his way, in a beat-up, old fossil of a car that was somehow part of his character. He was a fine and dedicated artist, and a masterful printer. He was a humanist in the truest sense of the word.
On June 17 Kip was working, as usual, in the Jem Hom gallery on O Street NW. It was lunch time, and Jem was out of the gallery. According to police, a man who had been in previously wishing to buy some expensive prints came to the door. Kip pressed the security buzzer and let him in. Kip had asked the man to bring a cashier's check to pay for the prints. The man brought a pistol. The man shot Kip in the back, police said. Kip fled the gallery, screaming for help. Two nurses on the sidewalk did their best to help him, but his injuries were too severe. Kip died at George Washington University Hospital that evening.
The shock felt in the local art community was, and is, profound. Those of us who knew Kip were numbed with disbelief. There are so many questions--the biggest one, as always, is why? How could anyone kill someone like Kip? Why is it that people like that always seem to have a handgun? Why must they kill people so brutally, so thoughtlessly?
It is difficult to think of Kip as a statistic, but, as a detective involved with the case told me the other day, in any given year the number of people in the area who die from gunshot wounds runs into the hundreds. That is appalling. The uniform reaction from the artists and others I have talked to about Kip's death has been, "Why must we have handguns?"
The Jane Haslem gallery, and others are working to catalogue Kip's work. It is a long and laborious process. Jane estimates that it may take as long as two years to complete the re'sume'. Meanwhile, the Rev. Joseph Haller S.J. has mounted a show in Kip's memory in the Healy building at Georgetown University. It is a collection of pictures--including works by Walt Kuhn, William Gropper and Rockwell Kent--that Father Haller felt Kip would have liked. It is entitled "Vacation Reveries," and it will be on display through tomorrow.
Kip was only 29. When last I saw him, he couldn't wait to get started on a series of prints he had in mind. I had never seen him happier. He was terribly excited about some new drawings he showed me. They were small, complex, almost pointillistic in execution: trees, bridges, courtyards and gabled houses. With his intense rendering, Kip could breathe life into a brick. The thing that grieves me the most is that these ingenious drawings will not be transformed into etchings. No one but Kip would be qualified to do the work. At least I have an imperishable memory of his describing what had to be done with the limbs of a gnarled tree in one of the drawings. His criticism of my own work was, as always, creative and incisive.
My father once told me of his belief that if a man lives after death, it is in the hearts and minds of the people who knew him. I believe this to be true, and so, Kip, I know that you will live and enrich many lives, and for a very long, long time.
Thinking of this gives me great comfort. To know that such a good and gentle human being could be taken from us at such an early age, and in such a senseless fashion, is a bitter thing indeed.
We love you, Kip.