Arts I’m Too Sad To Tell You
posted by July 26 at 10:57 AMon
Last week, an artist named Jeremy Blake was seen wandering into the ocean off of Rockaway Beach. Nearby, his clothing, wallet, and a suicide note were found under a boardwalk. The week before that, Blake’s girlfriend of 12 years, Theresa Duncan, had committed suicide in their apartment. (Duncan was a filmmaker with a blog called The Wit of the Staircase.)
At first, the story of Duncan and Blake was blurry and sad. It looked like he had walked to a watery death out of mad grief over his lost love. It brought to mind Ophelia, without the floating body. The 35-year-old Blake was just missing, gone, disappeared. I thought of Bas Jan Ader, who, for his final work of art, sailed out to sea alone in 1975 after his friends sang him a romantic shanty, and never returned. He, too, was never found. (Jan Verwoert has a really terrific recent book about Jan Ader’s alternately heartbreaking and rationalistic, fake and real, art.)
Yesterday, the LA Times published a story titled “The Apparent Double Suicide of Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan.” Evidently, the lovers had been convinced that Scientologists were after them. Friends and family who expressed doubts about the pair’s claim were shut out. Blake and Duncan became something like a cult of two themselves.
And then comes today’s news, linked on Artsjournal, that a fisherman has found a body in the area. The story is all talk of physical details: a body marked by “brown eyes brown hair, but no scars, tattoos or any other distinguishing features except for several teeth with gold crowns,” the investigators’ search for “any dentists or doctors who might have worked on Blake’s teeth.”
Blake’s best-known work outside the art world, where he has shown at big museums and even has a major exhibition scheduled to open in October at the Corcoran in DC, is the abstract color sequence he did for the film “Punch Drunk Love.” The sequence is set right into the middle of the movie, like a visual intermission from plot. The movie has been underappreciated, but it is a thing of strange, popping beauty, full of rage and uneasy love. I’m going to watch it again and think about the media image of Blake’s blank skin and gold teeth.