The Athens arts and music scene took another terrible blow today, Monday, Oct. 24, as reports spread through town that Jeremy “Jerry” Ayers had passed away after suffering a seizure and falling into a brief coma.
Ayers was an essential part of the birth of new music in Athens during the late 1970s to mid-’80s, writing lyrics for both R.E.M. (“Windout,” “Old Man Kensey”) and the B-52s (“52 Girls”) and serving as a core fellow and longtime friend for many who lived through those days of distinctly Athenian bohemia.
Ayers was also among the first Athenians to penetrate the New York art scene. As “Sylva Thinn,” he was one of Andy Warhol’s “Superstars,” and even penned a column for Warhol’s Interview magazine in the early ’70s. He remained closely associated and involved with nearly every subsequent arts movement in our city since that time, and several generations of Athenian artists, musicians, writers and regulars counted him as a friend.
Ayers was particularly notable for his gentleness, kindness and generosity. As a working artist, even one with several careers’ worth of accomplishments under his belt, he was never boastful, and many people remained unaware of his rich history.
Most recently, Ayers was again splitting his time between Athens and New York City. In the past few years, he’d published three books of his photos (Aeronautica, 2011; Today in New York, 2011; and Occupy!, 2012). Significantly, he embraced the fluidity of the arts in Athens and its people, never demarcating where one era ended and another began. In his artist statement for Aeronautica, he wrote:
These photographs were taken over a wide span of years in Athens, GA. They are in an order that weaves to & fro, a concept inspired by circular concepts of Time (the Hopi Indians and others). Borges’ Magicians of Thlon deny the very existence of Time, a provocative idea when considering concepts of order. I chose the title Aeronautica (“the pretended art of sailing in a vessel through the air or atmosphere”—Chambers’ Cyclopaedia, 1753) because it seemed suggestive of dreams, hopes and visions, which, by both magic and labor, may one day be realized. Just as flight came into being, many of the dreams of the citizens of Athens have come to fruition. This book is in part a tribute to that ongoing evolution.
A small portion of Ayers’ work may be seen at jeremyayres.tumblr.com.
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