25 July 2009

Taking Offense (2): Dash Snow

Every once in a while there is a story about some tortured artist committing suicide that just makes me want to spit. There is a long example of that genre on offer in The New York Times today. You can find it here - a sketch of the life and death of Dash Snow. As The Times report makes clear, Snow met "a pathetic end." There are many striking things in The Times story ~ the resentfulness of friends (like the ass who complains that, unlike Snow, he has to go out and work for his heroin), the self absorption of family members who tormented Snow as a child, the indulgence of his grandmother who set up "expense accounts" to underwrite his bad behavior, the irresponsibility of those members of "a certain downtown scene" who enabled Snow's pathetic existence.

Ultimately, though, we cannot blame all the travails of life on the actions of others. I wrote the following in a post about the suicide of another tortured artist a while back:
"Simply put, while it is too bad he died as he did, Clarke's death was as self-indulgent as his life. In other words, it was plenty self-indulgent. And his work is not worth much more than a passing look."
This pretty much captures my view of Snow too. Although the "feral" existence he seemed to have created seems contemptible to me, I would not wish him dead. And I recognize that the experiences of rich kids trapped in the conflicts among rich narcissistic adults are hurtful. But Snow seems never to have really attempted to do anything other than act out his hurt ~ abetted, of course, by other self-indulgent rich folks in his life. It is difficult for me to summon much sympathy for a life squandered. Apparently Snow created some of his masterpieces by jerking off onto pages from newspapers and magazines. The reporters from The Times couldn't quite bring themselves to draw the clear analogy. Snow seems to have been a jerk-off in pretty much every domain of life. That life - and the death which ended it - are no more than a cliché.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Stan B. said...

Oh, and I suppose caring about something or someone other than himself might have led to a more "fulfilling" life? Talk about cliches! It's easy to criticize Jim, especially when you haven't jerked off in someone else's shoes...

25 July, 2009 12:09  
Blogger dR said...

That is a pretty shallow take on Dash...

Before you judge the dead, it's probably best to walk in their shoes. Since you can't do that, better to just bite your lip...

Perhaps you can work on the sympathy for a life squandered... to me, that is a situation that simply screams for sympathy.

Anger and addiction are a lethal combination... so powerful as to overtake a fathers love for a child. As a father, I recognize that in order to do this, that is quite a powerful pull on a severely troubled soul...

Doug Rickard

25 July, 2009 19:17  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Doug,

Thanks for the frank comment. I will be frank in return.

The article claims that some (at least) would describe Snow as a "doting father." Bullshit. While he was alive he self-medicated to the point of incapacity. And then he killed himself. Nice try, but I have no sympathy for someone so self-absorbed that they leave that legacy to a child.

I have an ex-wife who's father was a drunk and an addict. He so estranged himself from his wealthy family that he was disinherited. Eventually, he died in a car crash with drunken friends in Death Valley. His daughter has spent much of her life dealing (not very successfully) with the way he abandoned her and fucked up their family. She is now doing her damnedest to make sure that our thee year old son inherits the family pattern through another generation. When I think about Snow's daughter I think about my own son and how the adults in his life have set him up. (I am not absolving myself of responsibility in any of that.)

As for walking in Snow's shoes. On the same day two years ago two 14 year old boys died on the same spring evening here in Rochester. Different kids, different lives, very different deaths. One was my son. Jeff dropped dead. The other was a young black kid shot dead (by two other young kids)outside his grandmother's house. I'd give nearly anything for either of them to have their lives back. Given the way he squandered his own life and the legacy he left his daughter, I cannot say the same about Snow.

In other words, I know anger and depression plenty well enough. On numerous occasions when I wondered whether life was worth it, I thought about those who'd be hurt if I did anything so selfish as suicide. Snow apparently could not muster the self-respect. "Tragic" figures like this guy make me sick to my stomach. The report in The Times calls his death pathetic. I'd say his life was as well. And it was not all someone else's fault. I guess I wonder why they were running his story above the fold on the front page this morning.

25 July, 2009 19:42  
Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

Would anyone even give a rat's ass about this guy and his "art" if he was some ordinary working class kid from the Bronx? I doubt it. The whole fascination with him is based on image. Young, good looking, rich UES kid gone bad. Spare me.

This wasn't even worth the post.

25 July, 2009 21:04  
Blogger Teresita said...

Elizabeth Gilbert gave a great talk on the need to let the tortured artist standard go.

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

25 July, 2009 22:43  
Blogger Shannon.Carroll said...

Very similar thoughts were running through my mind when I read of Snow's death. I almost felt bad. But really, his life, his death were so stereotypically banal -- rich kid from upper class East end family makes bad art, gets it up in some international exhibitions because his family is well connected in the art world... Nothing of his life seemed to leave or bend the imagination of its original paradigm, his life and his artwork did not encompass a greater understanding or insight. It appeared he ended exactly where he started. Perhaps this is what was so pathetic about his death, and why I felt intrigued yet bored reading the article about it.

26 July, 2009 01:39  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

In the 'are you kidding category!?!', I received this email last night:

Hello,

My name is Barris I am contacting you on behalf of Gradient Magazine. I wanted to see if the enclosed photos from the Dash Snow community memorial would fit your site?

http://www.gradientmagazine.com/2009/07/dash-snow-community-memorial-show-at-deitch-projects/

Please feel free to post them up.

Thanks
Barris

--
Barris Vinogradov
Mobile 646 541 8242
Gradient Magazine
55-59 Chrystie st
Suite B105
New York, NY 10002

26 July, 2009 13:24  
Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

C'mon, Jim! There's a lot of investors holding this guy's work. They want to make sure those works appreciate in value. I can't believe you won't do a good deed and perpetuate his "tortured genius" image, so the private equity barons can get a nice return!

lol

26 July, 2009 19:45  

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