UPDATE 12/13/07: VANITY FAIR (January 2008)
The Golden Suicides
By Nancy Jo Sales
Update 9/11/07: THE INDEPENDENT
The beautiful and damned: The shocking suicide of the art world's most glamorous couple
Artists Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan had it all – looks, talent and a lifestyle to match. Then, in July, Duncan took an overdose and died. A week later, Blake drowned himself at sea. Were dark forces really conspiring against them? Or was it a tragic case of charmed lives gone awry?
By Charles Darwent. Published: 09 September 2007
Today's Newsweek article's claim that Theresa and Jeremy were driven crazy by technology and killed themselves because they were "mesmerized" by the Internet is so mindboggglingly stupid it's (almost) beyond commentary: I only see three possible explanations for its author's moronic angle:
1) the author is competing with the New York Mag piece, and wants his story to be optioned as a post-cyberpunk post-911 paranoia-era genre flick (to be directed by Tony Scott);
2) the author is desperate to leave Newsweek so he can finally go write for Gawker.com (but he lacks the essential combo of a filthy mouth, a modicum of intelligence and irony, so he may as well get used to writing for Newsweek until he dies of old age -- or commits suicide);
3) the author is actually an agent for the Church of Scientology and is a victim of mind control by crazy idiots from another planet.
Aug 22, NEWSgrist comment:
Though over a month old, this post continues to receive an unprecedented number of hits per day. Responding to the conundrum of this dual suicide, all levels of media coverage from blogs to print dailies to tabloids seem to promote everything from conspiracy theory to drugs; most of it amounts to a huge pile of tawdry sensationalism. I guess the idea is to sell papers (or get more hits). As glamorous as they may have seemed while still alive, there is nothing glamorous or romantic about this story; it's not raw material for a Tony Scott style psycho-surveillance thriller, nor for Sofia Coppola's next chickflick. Whatever they suffered from, T&J remained undiagnosed unto death. As can be the case with undiagnosed and untreated mental pain, they were self-medicating (lots of alcohol...). However bizarre, their shared illness, if that's what it was, is certainly not unheard of. No one can confirm at this point if this was really the case or not, but it is the most logical explanation for their increasingly erratic behavior during the last years of their lives leading up to and including their suicides. No one can say whether an accurate diagnosis and suitable treatment might have helped them or just prolonged their difficult descent. RIP.
The rectory of St. Mark's Church.
(Photo: Santino Di Renzo)
August 20, New York Magazine:
Conspiracy of Two, by David Amsden
Aug 20, GAWKER:
SUICIDE IS PAINLESS
"Why Did Theresa Duncan and Jeremy Blake Commit Suicide?"
by Choire Sicha
August 12, LATimes: Books & Ideas
Theresa Duncan: an arch and fiery spirit
On her blog, the late Theresa Duncan shared what caught her fancy. A fan follows the map.
By Steffie Nelson
The Villager, Volume 77, Number 10 | August 08 - 14, 2007
Artists' double suicide casts a pall at St. Mark's
By Lincoln Anderson
Aug 3, Ron Rosenbaum, Pajamasmedia:
Did I Hear Jeremy Blake's Last Words? (pt. 1)
August 1, Washington Post:
The Puzzling, Tragic End of A Golden Couple
Artist Jeremy Blake a Suicide Weeks After His Companion, Theresa Duncan,Took Her Life
By David Segal
AND....via the Mayo Clinic website:
Paranoid schizophrenia: Signs and symptoms
[...] Early signs and symptoms of schizophrenia — such as social withdrawal, unusual behaviors, anxiety and decline in daily functional abilities — may begin gradually before the primary symptoms of schizophrenia, known collectively as psychosis, are manifested. But disease onset may also be acute with the sudden appearance of psychosis.
Delusions and auditory hallucinations are the prominent psychotic symptoms in people with paranoid schizophrenia.
When people have delusions, they believe something to be true that essentially no one else in their culture believes. A person with paranoid schizophrenia misinterprets experiences and then holds on to those interpretations despite evidence or reasoning to the contrary.
Delusions are commonly focused on the perception of being persecuted and often result in the mistrust of other people:
* The FBI is spying on me.
* Someone is poisoning my food.
* My thoughts are being broadcast over the radio.
Delusions can become complex stories, and interpretations of experiences often "confirm" the person's view of reality. For example, a traffic officer blowing a whistle is alerting FBI agents on the trail of the person with paranoid schizophrenia. A man who looks at the officer is an agent. When he uses his cell phone, he's reporting the person's location.
Delusions may result in a violent outburst if a person believes a perceived threat creates a dangerous situation in need of self-defense.
A person with paranoid schizophrenia may also have delusions of grandeur — holding the belief that he or she has superhuman skills, is famous, has a relationship with a famous person or is a historical figure. These delusions can be dangerous [...]
August 3, LATimes:
The world as Jeremy Blake and Theresa Duncan saw it
Friends sift through the clues left behind by a glittering 'It' couple who had wrapped themselves in a cocoon of paranoia.
By Chris Lee, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 1, LAWeekly:
The Theresa Duncan Tragedy
A writer–game designer and her boyfriend commit suicide, and a façade falls away
By KATE COE
August 1, NYTimes, Obituaries:
Jeremy Blake, 35, Artist Who Used Lush-Toned Video, Dies
by Randy Kennedy
...and a moving eulogy by Glenn O'Brien, posted to Theresa's blog:
Spirit d'escalier -- in memory of Theresa Duncan
By Glenn O'Brien, The Wit of the Staircase (July 30)
JULY 26, via Modern Art Notes:
JULY 25, via Modern Art Notes:
Jeremy Blake is from Washington, DC. He took his first art classes at the Corcoran. And the Corc has a major Blake exhibition scheduled for October. So: Why hasn't the Post said one word about his apparent suicide?
JULY 25, via Los Angeles Times:
JULY 23, via Modern Art Notes:
Expect this fall's Jeremy Blake show, Wild Choir: Cinematic Portraits of Jeremy Blake, to continue more or less as planned at Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art. That's the word from the museum and from the show's curator, Jonathan Binstock (who recently left the Corc for Citi but who is moving forward with the show). This will be Binstock's second Blake show: He curated "Jeremy Blake: Digital Projections" at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 2000. Blake is missing off the coast of New York City.
The show is scheduled to open on Oct. 22. Blake was to have been an artist-in-residence at the Corcoran this fall. (The museum says that Blake, who grew up in Washington, took his first art classes at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.)
It is not clear how the show will differ from the original concept: The presentation of three of Blake's 'cinematic portraits' and many of his chromogenic prints. It is possible, even likely, that Blake did not complete one of the works scheduled for the show, a 'portrait' of Malcolm McLaren titled Glitterbest. (Two other 'portraits, Reading Ossie Clark, sequence at left, and Sodium Fox are complete.) People involved with the show stressed to me that it is too early to know what happens next in regards to their expected future communications with the Blake family and so on.
I'm told that Blake finished work on the show's catalogue several weeks ago. It includes a Q&A between Blake and Binstock, an essay by Glenn O'Brien, a poem by David Berman, and many images from Blake's Glitterbest project. The Corc's releases ends by saying: "Further details of this project are pending."
from Saturday, July 21, 2007:
Theresa Duncan has committed suicide. Last we at newsgrist heard from her it was April... I'm late to the story, so I will be as thorough as possible; there are a handful of blog links below (updates to come); The NYTimes is the first major daily to break the story (today); she's been dead for ten days. She had a fascination for Jean Seberg, her tragic doppelganger (Seberg's is the B&W image above). In any case, Theresa was unique.
Worse still: (via LATimes, July 21):
Artist Jeremy Blake is missing, according to New York City investigators, and he apparently drowned himself Tuesday night, said Lance Kinz, co-owner of the Manhattan art gallery that represents Blake. Police said a man "tentatively identified" as Blake was seen stripping to his shorts and disappearing into the surf at Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y., where no body had been found by Friday. Kinz said Blake's friends are convinced it was him because his wallet and clothes were found in the sand. Blake's apparent suicide comes a week after he found his longtime girlfriend, writer-filmmaker Theresa Duncan, dead on the bed in their Manhattan apartment, where she had left a suicide note.
Q: If you were to make a perfume that embodied the essence of Los Angeles, what would it smell like?
A: My cologne is called Santa Ana after the powerful winds that bring desert heat and faraway smell into the city. It smells like: Celluloid and sand, coyote fur and car exhaust, contrail cloud and chlorine, bitter orange and stage blood and one bushel of ghostly, shivery night-blooming jasmine flowers like blown kisses from the phantoms of the ten thousand screen beauties who still haunt our hills every full moon because they think it's a stage light.
UPDATE 7/23/07: Some links to articles by Theresa, as well as to two animations she produced with Jeremy:
Theresa Duncan, ARTFORUM articles:
Never mind the Sex Pistols: Theresa Duncan on Game Boy music
Twin Bills: Theresa Duncan on women and the man in two recent films - Slant
Theresa Duncan's blog:
The Wit of the Staircase
The History of Glamour
by Theresa Duncan, Jeremy Blake and Karen Kilimnick, 1998, USA
An animated mockumentary about an art scene similar to Andy Warhol's Factory
* FORMAT: DVD
* PRICE: $10.00 Purchase
Theresa Duncan's animated video ''The History of Glamour'' is a gentle, very funny pseudo-documentary of the fashion world that tells the story of Charlie Valentine, a girl from Antler, Ohio, who moves to New York City and becomes a supermodel and eventually a Madonna-like pop star. The film imagines a chic little society where Chanel No. 5 is served as a cocktail in restaurants with names like De Rigueur. One of the narrators (played by Mary Louise Wilson doing her best Diana Vreeland impersonation) is a fashion maven named Grace Greenberg who runs the definitive fashion rag Ooh La La Magazine.
An image from “Sodium Fox,” a 2005 video work by Mr. Blake. Courtesy of Kinz, Tillou + Feigen, New York
Two Artists, One Suicide, the Other Missing
By RANDY KENNEDY
Published: July 21, 2007
In a case that is reverberating in the art world, the New York Police Department said yesterday that a video-game designer and budding filmmaker committed suicide last week and that her companion, a rising art star, has been missing since Tuesday.
The filmmaker, Theresa Duncan, 40, who has also drawn attention for her writings on cultural topics, committed suicide in their East Village apartment on July 10, the police said. Her companion, Jeremy Blake, 35, a well-regarded artist known for digital animation that blurs the line between abstract painting and film, has been missing since his clothes were found on a beach in the Rockaways on Tuesday evening, they added.
Found with the clothes was a note that made reference to Ms. Duncan, the police said.
Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the police department, said that Mr. Blake was last seen taking off his clothes and then walking into the water at Beach 102nd Street on Tuesday. Police scuba teams have searched the waters off the beach since then, Mr. Browne added, but have not found a body.
Lance Kinz, a director of the Kinz, Tillou + Feigen gallery, which represented Mr. Blake, said that Mr. Blake and Ms. Duncan had been together for 12 years and were very close. The two collaborated, along with another artist, Karen Kilimnik, on “The History of Glamour,” a 1999 animated film that spoofed the fashion world. The short movie, which Ms. Duncan wrote and directed, was called “gentle” and “very funny” by Stephen Holden of The New York Times in 2001.
Mr. Kinz said that Mr. Blake told him he had discovered Ms. Duncan’s body after she committed suicide. He said he had spoken with Mr. Blake after her death and that, while devastated and grieving, “he seemed to be very much in control and to be coping with it.”
Mr. Blake, whose work has been shown at three Whitney biennials and at a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2005, is scheduled to have an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington in late October, partly in collaboration with Malcolm McLaren, the musician and designer.
Mr. Kinz said it is unclear whether that show, or another coming up at his gallery, in Chelsea, would open. “There’s some hope that maybe that wasn’t Jeremy going into the water,” he said, “but it’s presumed that he’s gone.”
Ms. Duncan, who was raised in Detroit, became a prominent video-game designer in the late 1990s, making sophisticated story-based CD-ROM games for young girls — an underserved population in a business largely aimed at adolescent boys. She and Mr. Blake had moved to Los Angeles but recently returned to New York, Mr. Kinz said, where she was working on writing and movie projects.
She also maintained a blog called “The Wit of the Staircase,” where she wrote energetically and at length on topics ranging from books to politics to Kate Moss. Her last entry, dated July 10, the day she died, includes a blurry photograph of a woman putting on a mask and quotes the novelist Reynolds Price: “A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo sapiens — second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter.”
She listed her interests at the site, theresalduncan.typepad.com, as “film, philology, Vietnam War memorabilia, rare and discontinued perfume, book collecting, philately, card and coin tricks, futurism, Napoleon Bonaparte, the history of electricity.”
Mr. Blake, whose work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and several other prominent institutions, began to make a name for himself in the late 1990s with dissolving photographic projections used to create the equivalent of geometric abstract paintings. He called his work “time-based painting.”
The 2005 exhibition in San Francisco was based around the San Jose mansion of Sarah Winchester, the widowed heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, who built a mazelike house with 160 rooms to confuse or ward off the ghosts of shooting victims she believed would haunt her.
In addition to work for galleries, Mr. Blake also created sequences of abstract art for the 2002 movie “Punch-Drunk Love,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, who had seen Mr. Blake’s work in an earlier show in San Francisco while working on the film.
Roberta Smith, writing in The Times about a 2005 exhibition by Mr. Blake in New York, said that his work had “given the stream-of-consciousness narrative, so long a part of modern literature, a time-based visual equivalent” and that he was moving past predecessors like Ed Ruscha, William Eggleston and Raymond Pettibon into new artistic territory.
The Death of Theresa Duncan: News and Clues
Living Legends: Hotel Chelsea Blog
Filmmaker Theresa Duncan Reported Dead
Theresa Duncan was 40….A Talent Removed
NY Daily News
Artist lost in surf likely killed self
Perfume of Life Forums
Theresa Duncan, Blogged On Perfume, Life, Arts, Dead in NYC last week
MediaBistrot: Fishbowl LA
Update: Theresa Duncan's Death Confirmed
Artist Jeremy Blake Missing
Modern Art Notes:
Jeremy Blake: Missing