A friend in Los Angeles who is a rigorous Kleinian analyst, sent me an email in which she said: ‘The way to overcome grief is mourning.’
What is frozen within resists thawing. Time and patience, as in most long-term processes. The waterfall a glacier tumbling through blue air.
I add a smidgeon of cumin surreptitiously to the pot of split pea and carrot soup I am making for my elderly art teacher. She does not know cumin and would probably not care for it, but it grounds the soup in that fragrant earthy cumin way. The trick is to add the spice so subtly that only a cumin-lover can taste it.
As I taste and refrain from adding more, I read an article about the artist Dash Snow who died of an overdose of heroin in New York on 13 July. When I was in New York, sober and filled with zest and trepidation two years or so ago, I saw some of his photographed graffiti and installations at a friend’s loft in Soho. An amazing sensibility, edgy and provocative.
Dash Snow died alone at the Lafayette House in the East Village, alone except for the following in his room with the antique marble hearth: an empty can of Amstel, an empty can of Heineken, an empty bottle of Bacardi rum, three used syringes and three glassine envelopes emptied of heroin. The substances that keep us company in that deadly aloneness. He was not quite 28 years old, the Kurt Cobain of the art world.
“He could go a month clean,’ his ex-wife recalled. ‘But if he had one glass of wine it would become a bottle, then coke, then heroin. There was not a slow build-up. It was like a beast building up.’
The beast in the jungle, the shadow crouching in the corner of the hotel room. I sit and look at images of his work. I think of what might have been. What it means to have Charles Saatchi paying five figures for your collages when you are 25. To have it all and to know that all is floating on addiction.
We have only today, the reprieve, the deadly virus dormant or in what looks like but may not be remission. A virus, like addiction or alcoholism, has no morals. We are tightrope artists, trusting in the fragile community of recovery, the hope that keeps us balancing on the tightrope above the freefall.