All things considered, it is heartbreaking when any little girl must grow up without a father. Do you blame the father for choosing against his family? Or the compulsion that lured him away? Gauguin chose painting over his wife and five children, ditching them to follow his bliss in Paris. Dash Snow seems to have followed drugs over his daughter, Secret; but we will never know his intentions. But the cause of death seems to be a gradual suicide stretched over the years, made increasingly legendary each time we mention it.
Comments at the NY Times and Gawker range from jaded told-you-so’s to streetz-styled shout-outs. Many attack Dash for selfishly belaboring his high-risk drug consumption, which jeopardized his paternal obligations. But where is the blame in addiction? I’ve never been hooked on anything except coffee and phonics, so I’m keeping mute.
Though we were in a casual group show together, I knew Dash Snow only through what he revealed/boasted in his Polaroids. And my last post was all RIP Michael Jackson. ::Two good reasons to avoid writing a requiem. (The best photo tribute is at Tiny Vices.)
Besides that, Dash Snow’s art didn’t really do it for me. On sex, drugs, counterculture, dystopian glamour, cocks, blood, outlaws, cum, and psychotic violence, who could really top the Sex Pistols, Richard Hell, Bret Easton Ellis, Cady Noland, Tommy Lee, Suicide Girls, Marilyn Manson, Andres Serrano, Larry Clark? And how seriously could you take it after This is Spinal Tap?
That doesn’t mean Dash’s work was DOA. For Holland Cotter, Dash was a bellwether:
“…Work that visually goes few places that Dada hasn’t already been. That’s O.K. If a young artist is searching for models, extreme Dada is an excellent choice. What’s encouraging is how far Mr. Snow, who is in his 20’s, has moved in such a short time, focusing and shaping a chafed, loose-cannon energy without reducing it.”
But isn’t extreme usually so mainstream, commercial-friendly, and producty that the nearby Marketing Exec has it tattooed on his shoulder in Chinese?
For Jerry Saltz, Dash was “a drug-addled scion of an American fortune,” and warned that if “Snow’s work doesn’t get more original, all that will one day be said about it will be that we had the luxury to say a lot about it.”
Drugs can be a potent catalyst for art. Hector Berlioz’ “Symphonie Fantastique” is notorious for having been fueled by opium. Jimi Hendrix supposedly nestled a tab of acid under his sweaty headband. Jack Kerouac popped Benzedrine while writing about pot.
Paul Schimmel curated Ecstasy: In and About Altered States at the L.A. MOCA. Gavin Brown hosted Drunk vs. Stoned, followed by a sequel. Responding to the GBE shows, Jerry Saltz (yes, again), observes that “stoned art” is introspective, hypersensitive, detail-oriented, and prone to surprise, spirals, and repetition, while drunk art is outward-looking, impulsive, romantic, and unafraid of messiness and sloppy emotions.”
What is the draw about heroin? Lou Reed, now 67, canonized it 30 years ago, yet it ambushes us every few years: Jim Morrison, Basquiat, Kurt Cobain, Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction, Pete Doherty, Amy Winehouse. Predictably, every time, the seductive neighbor becomes a rapist warden. Yet, we can’t discredit its generative potency in making art.
But let’s go back a few lines, no pun intended. If drugs can unleash creative potential, then why choose a drug that starts digging your grave? Wouldn’t it make more sense to apply a high that takes a lesser toll? A more “sustainable” drug? -Whoever died of a pot overdose? -Wouldn’t it be more revelatory, fun, and addiction-free to ride acid or mushrooms behind the scenes of reality? –What would mescaline do to a still life painting? Ask Picasso and Braque.
Is heroin just more glamorous, knighted as the hedonist ultimate? Is it more coded, branded as the aesthete’s elixir? Is heroin just more “extreme?” I know lots of people who have tried everything available, except heroin. Heroin is going too far, they think. But in Jim Carroll’s Basketball Diaries, “H” seems as ubiquitous as its “gateway” sibling. So maybe “extreme” is relative.
And to relatives, friends, and loved ones of Dash Snow: I am genuinely sorry that you lost someone in your life.