Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Drugs Don't Work.

Dash Snow photographed by Mario Sorrenti.

Artist Dash Snow existed at that border that draws its perforated line between art and fashion. His bearded, tattooed self, his penchant for suspenders, hats, and long hair landed him a spot in front of some of the fashion world's most celebrated lenses, including those snapped by Terry Richardson and Mario Sorrenti. But, Snow's main occupation was that of an artist. His Polaroids, collages, drawings, and graffiti pieces all documented a life of raucous partying and drug use. On some level the artwork read as a record of fun high jinks; a kind of "kid with a camera" aesthetic used to capture graphic sex, public pranks, and disappearing lines of blow. But now Dash is dead and his photos of himself covered in blood, of his friends smoking crack and sticking themselves with needles, are more disturbing than ever.

The idea that creativity requires some sort of artificial lubricant, some substance, some energy that burns it's purveyor like explosives at both ends, needs to be fought hard. That idea kills people, and it sends a message to so many middle Americans that creativity is deadly, insanity-inducing, and dangerous. Yet, people of all ilks could use the release and transformative power of creative expression. It is sad that another talented person succumbed to addiction, very sad. To me it is even sadder that he was venerated for the clear signs of his self-destruction. People bought his art, funded his projects, put his bloodied photos on their gallery walls long after it was quite obvious that he was not well. There are aspects of our culture that are so disturbing. One is that desire to watch people unravel, to get just close enough to their incinerating selves to feel the heat, but not to scorch ourselves.

I have nothing but compassion for the struggle of addiction and substance abuse. I don't mean to be insensitive to Dash Snow's memory by speaking of him in this way, quite the contrary. It's just sad that there is yet another exemplary warning against glamorizing the self-destructive lifestyle. There is nothing edgy about it. There is nothing cool, nothing glamorous about tearing yourself apart from the inside out. It's torture and pain. Nothing good comes of placing it on a pedestal, or a gallery wall. For the sake of his family and friends, I hope his death means there will be less cautionary tales to come. And, may he rest peacefully.

Installation shot of Dash Snow and Dan Colen’s "Nest" (2007).
Image via

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