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Negative Space: Inheriting My Father's Legacy of Art and Addiction

Published on 10th October 2017

My father lived in an abandoned factory in Bushwick before that was a thing people did, and made art constantly – hauling fallen tree branches back to “the loft” to carve into giant deer heads, sketching birds while waiting for the bus, collecting intriguing bits of trash in the pockets of his leather jacket. He was part of the East Village gallery scene’s heyday in the late ‘80s, showing at mainstays like Civilian Warfare and White Columns, and once at the Whitney.

The only competition for his attention was the beautiful stripper he fell in love with, and their accidental love child: me. And, eventually, the heroin addiction that grew behind the scenes of his life until it finally overflowed and destroyed his job and his marriage, and eventually killed him when I was 12 years old, and he was 43.

As a 21-year-old college student still living in our old stomping grounds of the East Village, I felt at once closer to and further away from my father than ever before. I realized it was because I had only known him as a child, and our relationship would never develop beyond that if I didn’t take it into my own hands.

Negative Space is the story of my eight-year search through the haze of my father’s addiction to find out who he really was, to dismantle the mythology I had created about him, and to piece together the story of his life – and its impact on my own – through interviews, letters, and his art. It’s a story about the things we inherit – the physical body of work my father left behind, that now fills my cramped East Village apartment, and the legacy of pain, addiction, and shame behind it. When my mother and I fought when I was a teenager and she screamed, “you’re just like your father!” I took it as a compliment – he was whip-smart, charming, capable; I wanted nothing more than to be like him. But the more I uncovered in this search, the more I realized that what I inherited from him wasn’t all good; I also got his stubbornness, elitism, and a tendency toward self-destructive behavior that almost led me into my own pit of addiction. It was only in reflecting so deeply on the good and bad of his life that I was able to see him – and myself – clearly. 

I'm currently seeking representation for this project. If you're an agent or publisher and would like to see a full proposal, please contact me using the form on this site.