Downtown artist Dash Snow died of a heroin overdose last week. The formation of his legacy is well underway. Was he an authentic artist with a tortured soul, or a selfish jerk who left his daughter fatherless?
Yes he was. Both, of course. The only argument is about the degree to which he was either one. In the "tortured artist" camp are most of Dash's friends and family, who tell the L magazine that the characterization of him as just a cum-spewing hipster party boy were...simplistic, at least:
"It bothers me when I see people write, ‘It was about the drugs, it was about the nightlife' - it wasn't, it was about his feeling," [his former lover Kathryn Garcia] said. "I think [Snow's was] a common feeling in New York at the time, it was dark. I mean, it was post-9/11… you know? Everyone had this feeling of loss, and aloneness, and not understanding, and they were rebelling against everything, every structure they could think of. And Dash was one of those people. Dash was a free spirit in a world that wasn't kind to free spirits."...
"He was one of those really pure souls - he was affected by everything, mentally, he was reacting to things constantly," Garcia said.
Most of the art world figures seem to agree, in their public statements, at least. Dash's brand of media-friendly shock art definitely got mixed reviews from fellow artists, but his persona was universally admired. Although not by everyone! Excluding Gawker commenters, one of the harshest appraisals of Dash's legacy came from this Blognigger post today, which says that glorification of people like Dash Snow is one of the main reason people will continue to die from drugs, and be celebrated for it:
Shooting heroin is the pinnacle of what is hardcore. There's nothing more hardcore in the world - it's so hardcore that the most hardcore of us say not to do it because it's too hardcore. We see it as the forbidden fruit in the boring-ass garden of eden...
WE value being Hardcore, and that's why WE keep dying young, and leaving our toddlers behind. WE rebel against a culture that worships the Jonas Brothers or Will Smith or Amerikkka or Money - but as long as we worship being hardcore, we're going to see smack as the ultimate in hardcore, and WE are going to keep testing it, getting addicted, and dying.
Like everyone else in the world, the man had good and bad qualities. Unsatisfying but true! Dash Snow—whether you liked his art or not—lived life fully, which should be appreciated, though not emulated in its specifics. And yes, coming to the realization that killing yourself through hardcore-ness is one of the most important steps towards maturity. Urging your friend to try the equivalent of bungee jumping without a cord, because it's hardcore, is not really a friendly thing to do.