Tuesday, July 5, 2022, around 9:15 pm, Bobby Anspach, 34, left the world suddenly.
Bobby was born in Toledo. He attended Maumee Valley and St. John’s Jesuit before matriculating to Boston College for his BA and to CCA and RISD for his MFA in sculpture. He often liked to crouch on his heels, whether while talking with friends and family, smoking a cigarette, or eating cereal with the bowl perched on his knees.
Bobby had an intense passion that he brought to whatever he chose to do. As a boy, he created stop motion animation videos using clay and a video camera. In one particular video, penguins emerge out of a ball of clay, they dance, then return to a ball of clay. He liked architecture in grade school and early high school, imagining and building homes using pasteboard and exact-o-knives. He also liked to draw and paint, spend time with friends and family, play video games, and make jokes. He also played paintball for a number of years. After Toledo, he went to Boston College, where he studied art and philosophy. Soon after matriculating, Bobby had something that may have been a psychotic break. It may have been exacerbated by drugs and alcohol. He said he was going to make the most beautiful work of art in the world. Then he went to rehab.
Soon after this, Bobby committed himself to helping other people struggling with addiction. He also began going on long meditation retreats, where he would sit silently for months at a time. While living in Boston through his mid-twenties, Bobby found purpose in helping others recover from addiction. Bobby was an active member of the recovery community and helped to shape it. He started a recovery meeting in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts for Steve, a Vietnam War veteran who struggled with addiction. Steve had lost the use of both of his legs and could ambulate only with the assistance of an electric wheelchair, which made it difficult for him to leave the apartment and find recovery resources. Bobby brought a group of recovering addicts to Steve. After Steve died, the meeting Bobby started outgrew the apartment complex where Steve lived and moved to downtown Boston. Now, more than a decade has passed and this group still meets regularly each week. It is not uncommon to see in excess of 80 people in attendance.
Around his mid-twenties, Bobby began to commit himself to art. He went to CCA, then to RISD, where he got his MFA in sculpture. It was also there that he produced “Place for Continuous Eye Contact,” the first in a series of installations that he continued to work on (in New York City and Beacon, New York) till the end of his life. The works were intended to help bring about world peace by offering the viewer an experience similar to what Bobby had discovered on meditation retreats. His installations are composed of LED lights, glass lenses, colorful pom-poms, mirrors, music, and other materials. The works soften the boundaries between self and other. It’s hard to overstate how beautiful and unique these works of art are.
Bobby showed his work in Providence, Rhode Island, San Francisco, California, Beacon, New York City, and Brooklyn, New York. Amongst other shows, his work was featured at the 2018 and 2020 Spring Break Art Shows, 2019 BRIC Biennial, 2019 Portal: Governor’s Island, and, most recently, the parking lot of the Wal-Mart in Newburgh, New York. His work appeared in Art Forum, Gothamist, Hyperallergic, the Brooklyn Rail, ArtNet, Bedford + Bowery, and other publications. Elizabeth Ferrer, Vice President, Contemporary Art, BRIC (Brooklyn), wrote of Bobby, “… a one-of-a-kind artist who worked with technology, kitsch, light and music to create revelatory, immersive installations… Bobby was a visionary and we will miss him.” Paula Baldoni, owner of River House Arts in Toledo, wrote, “… the work is so important, and exactly what we need now.”
And Maryellis Bunn, founder of the Museum of Ice Cream, wrote, “This is heartbreaking… a creative genius.”
It’s hard to overstate how beautiful Bobby was and continues to be in the memories of those who love him. Bobby provided his family and friends with space to speak. He was gentle, caring, and soft. He loved intensely and wanted to be loved intensely. He moved around a lot through his late-twenties and thirties, and everywhere he went, he left a mark on those whom he loved and those who loved him. His family has received hundreds of messages from family and friends who were touched by Bobby’s spirit: “He saved my life”; “Bobby is one of the only people I’ve ever idolized”; “Bobby was/is a massive spirit with incredible love to give”; “Super helpful to me when I first got sober”; “Bobby served such a great example to me in my earlier years”; “Bobby was a great guy and one of my favorite people to be around”; “He had such a great vibe. No one can ever be like him, he’s still him somewhere, he can’t not be”; “Bobby was one of the kindest souls I have ever met. He really helped me on my journey”; and “Bobby gave me so much. He put me on the path of the Dharma.”
Before leaving on his first long meditation retreat in 2012, Bobby wrote a letter to his parents to let them know where he was going:
“Though I long, at times, to speak with each of you before taking this step, I know that the work that I am doing here would best be supported by maintaining the silence. Goodbyes are never good enough with the ones you Love most. We are all part of each other and I cherish the parts that are you—and I know that you all feel the same. What I want to say most is that this is what my heart longs for. I find a world forgotten—the truth before words. This is why I rushed into the world. The simplicity—the beauty—often brings tears of joy when I realize I’m finally following my heart. Someday I hope to share this wonder with the world—but the timing is out of my hands.”
He left behind his mother and father, Jane and Bob; two brothers, Michael (Shuhra) and John; stepgrandmother, Jean Anspach of Tiffin; uncle, Bill Anspach, of Tiffin; and many loving friends and extended family members.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, Bob and Genie Friedman and Bill and Evelyn Anspach, also of Tiffin. We will remember Bobby, cherishing and making space for the parts of him that he left with us.
To remember and love Bobby, a memorial celebration took place Saturday, July 30, 2022, at Carranor Hunt and Polo Club in Perrysburg.
Bobby loved sending his mother flowers. If you are so moved, please send her plants or flowers of any kind.
Published by The Advertiser-Tribune on Aug. 9, 2022.
34465541-95D0-45B0-BEEB-B9E0361A315ATo plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.