The Life and Death of Dash Snow

07/22/2009 4:00 AM |

This rapid acquisition of Polaroid film is indicative, to some, of an era rapidly approaching an end. Grauer saw the photos as evidence of a time not long past: “He got those Polaroid shots in when you could still buy film at the end of that chemical life cycle,” he told me. “And so they’re kind of real, and because of that. I mean… they’re not snapshots from a night, or a couple parties. They’re not. This camera was obviously kind of carried around and cared about. And Polaroids are hard; you go through a lot of film to arrive at that kind of edit. At a time when film was done, he kind of gravitated to it, and it’s a pretty beautiful thing to see.” Grauer paused for a moment before he added, resolutely, “Beyond that, the collage work had an otherworldly, and very tender, and thorough touch.”

Discontent also permeated the work, and friends said his series of ejaculate-spattered newspaper clippings reporting police brutality illustrated the artist’s deep distaste for the world around him. “He was just angry, upset like all of us are, at the way things are,” said Garcia. “He was political in his own personal way.”

Resistance to communication technologies might be seen as one such stance. Snow notoriously ran without a cellphone or email, maintaining connections with friends organically. “I think he was a very special guy,” said Bruce LaBruce, an artist who worked with him briefly for a recent issue of Purple Fashion Magazine. “He somehow managed to live in the world entirely in his own way, at his own pace, and with his own sense of how things should be.”

Speaking to this unique sensitivity, virtually everyone I talked with described Snow as an intensely gentle individual. “He was one of those really pure souls — he was affected by everything, mentally, he was reacting to things constantly,” Garcia said. Peres and Garcia both expressed the belief that his work revealed this vulnerability and generosity. I, too, was more taken by the implicit sweetness of his art than I had been previously while writing his obituary earlier in the week. Even if I wasn’t alone, I felt ashamed for not having looked at the work more closely prior to his death. Perhaps Snow has left us more than we realize. “This is New York arts getting some of the attention it finally deserves,” Grauer told me, noting the inherent sadness in the fact that it took such extremes to make people actually stop and look at the work. “I don’t think it was a weak-minded era of over-drugged, or over-partied, or any of those things. I contend that if you go to the work and you really open your mind and your history books, you’ll find a way of caring about it at a pretty intense level.”

Notably, the work may speak more potently not as testament to an era (in this case, that of extreme consumption) but rather to a place. “I like it because it’s the city, and I don’t know if it could have happened anywhere else,” Grauer explained. “And its not just Dash, it’s the whole community. I just don’t know if another city could have supported it.”

Images courtesy Peres Projects, Berlin Los Angeles. Dash Snow portrait by Mordechai S. Rubinstein.