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Cheryl Dunn | In episode 96 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with Cheryl Dunn, a world-renowned street photographer as well as creator of the documentary "Moments Like This Never Last," on the life of the late, great artist Dash Snow. 

One art world Insider called him “the most charismatic artist since Jean Michel-Basquiat.” Like the great Basquiat, Dash Snow was a graffiti writer who showed in galleries, was dismissed as a lightweight clown, became an international art star and died a drug-related death in his 20's. There's more, much more to the story of Dash Snow, an heir to a fortune who immersed himself in New York’s art world demimonde of the early 2000's. Now, Cheryl Dunn's long-in-the-making documentary begun with Snow's cooperation, “Moments Like This Never Last,” is out and destined to add to the legend of this self-destructive bad-boy artist. I talk to the director about what drew her to Snow, his impact on the art world, how the legend grew and its impact on the world.

 

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Q&A

David (00:00):One Art World Insider called him the most charismatic artist since Jean Michel-Basquiat. Like the great Basquiat, Dash Snow was a graffiti writer who moved into the gallery world, was dismissed as a lightweight clown, became an international art star and died a drug-related death in his 20’s. There’s more, much more to the story of Dash Snow, an heir to a fortune who immersed himself in New York, sex, drugs, an art world demimonde of the early 2000’s as one of a triumvirate with Ryan McGinley and Dan Colen, dubbed WARHOL’St children by New York Magazine. Now, Cheryl Dunn’s long-in-the-making documentary begun with Snow’s cooperation, Moments Like This Never Last, is out and destined to add to the legend of this self-destructive bad-boy artist.

David (00:58):

“I wanted to make a film that put you in New York City with Dash at that time, rolling around with him and his crew,” said Dunn, “A film you could feel from every one of your senses, but couldn’t quite describe. A filmic expression of Dash’s life and art, told to you in his words with his imagery.”

David (01:21):

Well, Cheryl, I think you did it. Congratulations, and welcome.

Cheryl (01:25):

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

David (01:28):

Yeah, my pleasure. So, why Dash Snow?

Cheryl (01:33):

I always have documented my friends that were artists as their careers commenced, and I just really thought it was an important thing. Go to your friend’s shows, take some pictures, shoot a little video. I just really always had this reverence for artists early in their careers in these real special times, and I just, uh, thought it was important to, to always do that for my friends. And I met him as a young graffiti writer. At the time, I was kind of immersed in a number of other graffiti writers’ lives and I just started, um, I just was really kind of fascinated by that world and the community.

Cheryl (02:26):

I thought, at that time, in the late ’90’s, that I would someday make a film about graffiti writers, so I just started doing interviews and recording some of the guys and, and girls. They didn’t know that many girls that I knew. He was one of them and I met him as a 19-year-old, and he was such a really magical light of a kid. And we collaborated on a couple things and I really always followed him, and we just kind of became buddies. At that time, you wouldn’t think that he wouldn’t have passed in 10 years from there, I mean, less than 10 years.

Cheryl (03:07):

I was recording him because I thought he was re- a really incredible special New York character.

David (03:15):

So, you weren’t necessarily focused on him right away, you were interested in the whole group of people who were-

Cheryl (03:20):

Yes.

David (03:20):

… included in that world, right?

Cheryl (03:23):

Yes. Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David (03:25):

When did you start to think of it as him standing out from all of that?

Cheryl (03:32):

well you know, every fiber of his being was an artist. Everything he did, his whole existence was that of an artist. And I just was really drawn to him, as were many, many, many people. So, I made sure that I would go to his, uh, openings and go to his gallery show, and, shoot off an hour video, have him tell me what was up. And, when he passed, I knew that it was a story that needed to be protected. There were a lot of controversial opinions about him. People that knew him loved him, people that didn’t know him, sometimes hated him.

Cheryl (04:27):

And they had an idea of who he was, and when anyone had a negative response, I would say, “Did you know the guy? Did you ever meet him?” And they would always say no. I knew I had this archive of him. It was pre-cell phone, pre-video. So, there were a lot of pictures of him. He was a muse to many people, many, many photographers. But there was not that much video and I knew I had this pretty extensive archive of him, asking him life questions.

Cheryl (05:10):

So, one night, we went into this squi- C-Squat on, uh, Avenue C, and, uh, I just filmed him for about 90 minutes, just, like, “Do you wanna have kids? What do-” like, really simple questions about life. So, um, you know, that kind of became the thread of the movie. But not until he passed did I really, uh, think that this needed to happen and it needed to happen, um, from people on the inside, because there were a lot of people coming from Europe and the West Coast, asking others in New York if they had film, that they were gonna make a film about Dash Snow.

Cheryl (05:49):

And I said to some of my friends, film really, really, has a lot of power. It’s very far-reaching, and the first thing that gets in the world is what people are gonna think is true and you have to protect the story. And they were like, “You should make it,” and I was like, “Oh, okay. I’ll try,” (laughs). That’s kind of how it evolved.

David (06:11):

Well, you mentioned the controversy, and I know, ’cause I wasn’t an intimate of his in any way, of course, I knew about him, but I, I wasn’t a part of that scene, uh, too much, really. And even I, I feel, was affected by the story that is part of the background of your piece and was a very big part of his life, obviously, and something that he was trying to deal with as well. And I’m talking about his family, coming as he did from this tremendously wealthy famous art world family, the de Menils from Houston, and the D Art Foundation and, and just a long history of amazing story that, you know, involves Robert Turman and the Thurmans, an amazing story.

David (06:58):

And when you hear it, you figure, oh, this is a rich kid playing around in this world of art, and he doesn’t really have to succeed, so he could afford to do this. I feel like, something that was, he had to grapple with, as well as you and others who met him.

Cheryl (07:16):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Nobody knows. There’s so many different stories and I chose to mention the family, but I didn’t wanna make this a, it, I wanted it to be about him. And he chose in his life to, to be independent. I don’t know whether it was a choice, sometimes not and sometimes yes, to be independent of his family and to be just, an individual and who he was. And so, the public connection to his family was really difficult for him. And, you can have perceptions of what that entailed, but nobody really knows anyone’s inside life story unless they tell you, you know.

Cheryl (08:05):

And, uh, so I know what I know, but, I chose to not really make this film about that, because that is a whole nother film (laughs).

David (08:16):

Yeah. Well, tha- that’s a whole psychological, like, therapy-

Cheryl (08:21):

I have, uh, Stephen Powers ESPO say, like, one day, Dash said to him, like, “I got something to tell you,” and he says, “Yeah, uh, you know, I’m, I’m part of the de Menil family and the Schaumburg fortune,” and all this stuff. And he went home and looked it up, and he had known Dash writing graffiti for years and had no idea, and I don’t think a lot of people did until that New York Magazine story came out and went deep into that. I don’t personally have the experience to be judged by my family, so I don’t know what that is like, but I know that it was hard for him. 

 

David (09:18):

Well, we should also mention, that prior to him arriving on the streets of New York, he had this terrible experience with his family, or his mother particularly, sending him away to this school that was basically for juvenile delinquents or difficult, quote, difficult kids some place he stayed for a couple of years, eventually escaped, moved to New York, lived in a Squat, and was just, sort of just getting by as, like other people who were in the same situation. from that point on, I feel like he decided that he wasn’t going back.

Cheryl (10:00):

He was very estranged from his family, and that place, Hidden Lake Academy, he was abducted and taken there, which was a practice at that time with many, you know. Paris Hilton came out and talked about a place that she was taken to, you know. Um, but it was a practice. And, uh, this place, Hidden Lake, was only a few years old and he was the youngest kid there. And what they did, they would wait until a group of 20 or 30 kids, and then they would put them in, a grouping. And so, he had been taken there, I think, in the Summer and had to, just be in this place. It wasn’t really a school.

Cheryl (10:49):

they maybe taught them some school stuff, but that’s not what… I talked to another guy, um, who I found who had a surf shop down in Lower East Side and he was across, he went there at the same time as Dash. And it was basically a work camp. These kids were building the school for, the subsequent, batches of kids. And there was a military academy across the street, we’re in rural Georgia, and these guys at the military academy were also 17, 18 year olds, so were probably getting the shit beat out of them over there, so then they would come and they were, the guards for these kids having to dig ditches to build this school.

Cheryl (11:39):

the place is closed, it burned down mysteriously, and so did all the files. But there’s many lawsuits about the abuse that happened at this place that was found out years later. it was not, not a good place. 

Cheryl (12:00):

So I think he was completely distraught. And when he escaped and finally got back to New York, he was pretty pissed off (laughs) that he would, that he had to go there (laughs).

David (12:14):

Well, it, it’s, it kinda helped shaped who he was or how he presented himself as, as-

Cheryl (12:19):

Absolutely. Yeah. In hindsight, you know, when I read about this school, I tried to do as much research as I could and went down there. Actually, it’s a Christian teen camp now. And I went with a guy that wrote a book about it. He was younger than Dash but, we drove onto the property and we snuck in there and he showed me like these weird cabins, that they would be locked away if they did something bad by themselves in the woods. We just kind of snuck on this property and met some teachers and another teacher that he was very close with told me they had to, uh, be absolved of like anything that was their identity. They had to wear, they couldn’t wear any logos.

Cheryl (13:07):

He had to wear khakis and just a plain T-shirt and how no one could have long hair and no one, they couldn’t listen to music. They had censored books, like books with, uh, subversive words or anything about sex stars and rock and roll cut out of the books. So ironically then that in a way becomes part of his art practice is collaging like with these kinds of words, of things that he was denied. And his style was pretty, extravagant. This very much a backlash, I believe, from this period of time with his life, you know.

David (13:45):

The way he, his-

Cheryl (13:45):

He really informed him, his character in art practice.

David (13:48):

Speaking out against authority, I think, was his main focus, right?

Cheryl (13:54):

Absolutely. Yeah. It really informed his life after that.

David (13:58):

Yeah. And he, and he went around acting that out in fact, by breaking the laws, whether it’s graffiti, Iraq, stealing stuff, living in squats, doing everything against whatever the, the common, way of handling (laughs), of living would be accepted, any accepted norm.

Cheryl (14:19):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). (Laughs). Right. Yeah.

David (14:21):

Even his artwork, he would like ejaculate on artwork. He would just do everything that was outrageous.

Cheryl (14:29):

Yes ( laughs). He pushed it to the edge and-

David (14:34):

He pushed it.

Cheryl (14:35):

And also, you know, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, doing things that, you know, are… Tino, Razo said to me, you know, he’s pretty, he was pretty wild kid, and he said, when he met Dash, he was just like, okay, I kind of like the animal kingdom, you know, like two tigers.

David (14:53):

(Laughs). The alpha.

Cheryl (14:55):

You know, I recognize that you’ll do crazier things than me so I bow down to that (laughs).

David (15:03):

Well, including doing the graffiti on the Brooklyn Bridge. Right? The fuck Giuliani piece nobody could quite believe that he actually did that.

Cheryl (15:12):

Yeah. he became notorious after that. And I think he skipped town for a minute (laughs).

David (15:18):

So he was never arrested 

 

Cheryl (15:22):

I don’t believe he was arrested in New York. He was definitely arrested in California, but he was really harassed. His grandmother was harassed. They were after him. Um, but I don’t think, I don’t think legally they gotta really catch you… he was arrested in New York, yes, but not for that, but they’re just trying to get him. He was definitely.

David (15:51):

Targeted.

Cheryl (15:51):

If a cop pulls you over and you have a sharpie in your pocket, legally they could be like, that’s graffiti material. And I think that, he says that happened to him. But for the bridge, I don’t think they ever could pin it on him. 

 

David (16:08):

You mentioned his grandmother, who seems to be the one sympathetic character out of his family story, who was actually there for him and stood beside him and possibly even provided money for him during those days before he became an art star.

Cheryl (16:28):

They were very close. I don’t know verbatim, the exact support, kind of support, but he really, truly loved her. She was really cool and they were very close.

David (16:47):

So would you think the story is a cautionary tale?

Cheryl (16:53):

Uh, yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

David (16:58):

(Laughs).

Cheryl (16:58):

Um, don ‘t do heroin (laughs).

David (17:02):

Okay. So that’s-

Cheryl (17:02):

Well, I was trying, to, um, license the Neil Young song for the end of the film, and, uh, really put a lot of energy into it. And, at one point, one of the people on his management team said, “Are people doing drugs in this film?” And then I was like, “Oh, well, not exactly.” Then I feel like just looking at it more closely. I’m like, “Well, no one is shooting heroin.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s actually an anti-drug film.” You know, is what I said, but they still wouldn’t give me the song (laughs).

David (17:34):

So do you think heroin was the thing, just before we even get there, we know, uh, from your film that he got married. There were certain steps he was taking to have a more normal, quote, normal life, even as he was part of this group.

Cheryl (17:53):

Mm-hmm (affirmative). You know, he was pretty young and I don’t, at that time, none of his friends had children, you know? They all, a lot of them do now, it’s a difficult transitional period of time for anybody like 26, 27. You know, like historically, how many of our folk here (laughs), art music heroes have died at 27, right? maybe you have to go from not having responsibility to having some responsibility. And he was such a free spirit. More so than most people, 27 is hard for most people around that age. And then he had a child, um, that he really loved deeply, but I don’t know that he had any, uh, it was difficult for him to figure out that responsibility or like how to even be a father. I don’t know that he had any examples that he wanted to follow closely, you know, perhaps.

David (19:04):

Yeah. But you have some very sweet shots, and especially at the end of the film of him playing with his daughter. And, you know, obviously he loved his daughter and cherished that time with her. 

 

Cheryl (19:19):

That footage breaks me down every single time. You know, you edit a film and you probably watch a film 20 billion times, I could still get to that part and choke up. Because to me, it was just like, so pure, kind of like tribalism, a family, but that maybe would be in some jungle somewhere, but you’re in a loft on the Bowery, but it was just like feeding the baby. It’s just so beautiful. And fleeting obviously, Agathe says to me in the film that he didn’t want to damage his daughter, he knew that he was having this problem and he thought he didn’t, wanna like, influence, I don’t know, not be there after she’s two years old or some, some kind of quote she said like that.

David (20:27):

Like damage her psychologically.

Cheryl (20:29):

Yeah.

David (20:29):

Through his own behavior or history or… It’s complicated.

Cheryl (20:33):

Right.

David (20:33):

Cause, you know, if you’re traumatized, you often pass that trauma down, but that is still the case anyway. So it’s tragic that he didn’t or wasn’t able to overcome that. But you said, you know, then 27, like the Kurt Cobain is like a very similar with a young child also.

Cheryl (20:56):

Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I think to be a great artist, your insides and your outsides are really clear, clear. Your emotions have to be close to the surface. And a lot of artists don’t have this, this shell that protects them, because you have to mine your creativity, you have to mine this stuff that’s inside of you and bring it out. Sometimes there’s just not this protection against the world, you know, in lots of cases. a lot of artists that are that extreme don’t survive, 

David (21:44):

We mentioned one also important moment that you capture and, it seems like it’s, it really had a huge impact on him, on him was this New York Magazine story Warhol’s Children. Which, uh, exposed him to the world, you know, of, of what people had already knew. His friends and associates, I suppose, had already been informed about this, but suddenly here we are the, the heir to this art, world fortune. Presumably I don’t know if he would’ve inherited any of it or not. But, uh, somebody who had that kind of life, uh, and living this very opposite, anything but a luxurious lifestyle, but still claiming some, uh, an art world existence. it makes me wonder about that whole story, how did it happen? Why did he do it? I know he, uh, they talk about his resistance in the piece and, you know, I wonder about Dan.

Cheryl (22:44):

I think it was pitched in a different way.

David (22:46):

Oh, yeah?

Cheryl (22:47):

Yeah. And it, and it didn’t come out the way it was pitched. 

 

David (22:55):

tell, can you tell a little bit about the story for the, our audience?

Cheryl (23:00):

I haven’t read it in a long time, but I, I just, I just-

David (23:05):

I just did. I just read it (laughs).

Cheryl (23:08):

Oh, you did. Tell, then you tell us (laughs).

David (23:10):

Well, it’s just, you know, tries to sort of follow, Dash around with Dan Colen and, 

Cheryl (23:19):

Ryan?

David (23:19):

Ryan McGinley, who, uh, really, seems like really wanna be in the story. Cause I think, they wanted to be successful artists in a way that Dash didn’t really embrace in the same way, even though he was becoming successful along with them. I just felt that they really wanted it. They kept on connecting the writer with him and trying to bring him into it. so I kind of wonder, it talks about all the things that we’ve been talking about, all this crazy drug antics, his behavior, misbehavior, this bad boy persona

David (24:00):

He didn’t cultivate it. I feel like it was real at this point. Didn’t really have any other options. That’s one thing that came to me. Did Ryan and Dan, was it because they really wanted it, that the story happened at all?

Cheryl (24:19):

That’s a question for them. I don’t (laughs) I, I don’t really know. I tried to, uh, talk to their writer, um, she was not interested. I think those guys wanted to do it. Obviously, they did it, and, um, and maybe Dash did, too, but I don’t think it came out the way he thought it was gonna come out, and he was really embarrassed and he wanted to crawl in a hole. 

David (24:53):

Well, what was it that they didn’t like? I mean, was, was, was it the attitude of the writer more than just the actual content?

Cheryl (25:01):

Yeah. Well, he subsequently made a piece called, How Much Talent Does it Take to Come on the New York Post. Um-

David (25:11):

Okay (laughs).

Cheryl (25:12):

… he did a whole show in Perez projects in Los Angeles with male porn stars and had them cum on that statement. And he made art of that, you know, this writer was trying to take him down and he made it into art, which is interesting and awesome. but I think he really just wanted to be himself, but the story was all about his family. And I think it was the first time that that… and it was, you know, a big high-profile piece. And, he said he’d be walking down the street and people would be like, “Oh, that’s that guy,” you know.

Cheryl (26:01):

Like, it really, he couldn’t just be himself, ’cause now he was connected to this family that he was estranged with, that he tried not to be connected to.

David (26:22):

and he kind of also stands out to me as someone who, didn’t use his fame and, to go and meet famous people or be that kind of guy, the celebrity guy who, okay, now I’m famous, so I wanna hang out with other famous people, that he stayed very close to his group and his core scene.

Cheryl (26:41):

I mean, he was the most, he would (laughs) he would be as friendly and open to the dude living over the Grate on 23rd Street as, as Mick Jagger, you know. He was so open and so personable with every kind of person that was his charm. I think he also felt more comfortable with this network of graffiti writers, and your average graffiti writers not coming from privilege, you know. I met some kids in San Francisco, these were his really close friends and, and they were not coming from privilege at all, 

 

Cheryl (27:37):

he was the most non-judgmental… like, he was just so open to every kind of person. And also, every kind of age of person. He loved being around older artists that he knew through his grandmother. He was not ageist, he was not judgmental. He was just, like, a really, special, open soul. And, you know, I had friends that I was a curator in, um, the Sessionable Show and I had some friends of mine that were from California, they just sorta knew of him or they watched him from afar, and they were like, “I don’t wanna get mixed up with that guy.”

Cheryl (28:24):

And then, I’d say, “No, no, no,” and I’d introduce them, and within two minutes, they fell in love with him because he was so, you know, open and special, and friendly. 

David (28:38):

So, let’s talk about you for a minute as well. Before you got into the Dash Snow story, you already had a career. And, in fact, part of your life in this documentary, I noticed, like the 9/11 aspect, you were already shooting photography, for the most part, as far as I know, as opposed to film or, or video back then?

Cheryl (29:04):

No, I was, I was-

David (29:06):

No.

Cheryl (29:06):

… probably making films. Well, I started f- making films in the late ’90’s.

David (29:09):

Late ’90’s.

Cheryl (29:09):

Um, yeah. Yeah.

David (29:12):

So, yeah, and you were living down in the, right near the World Trade Center when the 9/11 happened, and there’s some of that footage in there. Uh, are you trying to say that there was a relationship between what happened then and what happened to Dash and this crew, and this sort of attitude, of artists of, of that time? The sort of downtown artists.

Cheryl (29:33):

Yes, absolutely. I mean, I really, uh, think that that context is totally informative and crucial to this story, you know. Like, um, kind of, currently, you know, or last year, you know, New York, when 9/11 happened, New York was really taken down to, to the core, taken down to the ashes, so to speak. Like, people with, with means left town, people with children left town, and downtown was, like, kind of a wasteland. And, you know, you know, you were in New York in the ’70’s, ’80’s (laughs) you know, where people, areas, and nobody wants to live in what happened. Like, clubs started, artists came in, rents went, went low, lower.

Cheryl (30:17):

And, and so, it became, like, this city for 20-year-olds, young people came in and what did they make from their experience of having been here when that happened? And, New York totally going from such a money-money town to a whole different dynamic. and the artists, super reflective of that. what people made and, and the things that were available, and the cost of things. I lived a half-a-block from the World Trade Center and I had two floors in this loft building, one was where I worked and one was where I lived. And I couldn’t go there and I was basically homeless.

Cheryl (31:10):

And so, for a while, all I did was shoot on the streets. And also, City Hall is right there and I had been shooting the protests against Giuliani, Amadou Diallo and the police brutality in the late ’90’s. So, to be able to tell this story with my own archive was really satisfying. That I could paint a picture of what it was like on the streets, um, at that time was, uh, was fun. And, hopefully, since I made the rest of the movie, to have this and not have it, have this footage that is in my point of view, I hope, gave the viewer a real, immersive feeling that, that was coming from the same point of view as the whole, as the rest of the, of the movie, actually.

Cheryl (32:09):

I’m actually working with that footage right now for something else, and we know that right now is the 20-year anniversary coming this September. So, there’s a lot of entities that have licensed that footage of mine at that time. it has a lot of parallels to the New York that we’re experiencing now, you know. There’s, this town is, the- young people are flying in from all over the country and it’s, a whole new energy on the street. It’s really exciting.

 

David (32:56):

Interesting. So what is this new project? Anything you can tell us about?

Cheryl (33:03):

I’m just trying to make a piece that is with my archive from 20 years ago and what was going on the streets, and equate it to the feeling I have about New York now. You know, New York, New York just reinvents itself all the time, you know. But when really desperate, really extreme things happen, it reinvents itself in a bigger way, you know. And I think now and 20 years ago has a lot of similarities, and I kinda just wanna make a piece that’s connecting those two times.

David (33:37):

Yeah, I wanna see it. you made this other documentary, uh, several other documentaries. One is Everybody’s Street, about, uh, street photographers. So, obviously, you have an affinity for that, like-

Cheryl (33:49):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

David (33:50):

… street life in that way.

Cheryl (33:53):

when I’m out there, that’s when I’m most happy. But I really feel like, you also have been writing and making journalism about culture that comes from the streets your, your whole career, right. you see these things brew, and then, the non-street eyes catch ahold, and then they kind of co-op things. But, so, um, or co-opt or, you know, celebrate them, or however you wanna look at it. But, yeah, I love the organic, confluence of people and compositions, and light and things that happen on the streets of New York. It’s a really incredibly special place to shoot pictures, just the topography, the way people move, the island that’s surrounded by rivers, the way light’s bouncing off of these skyscrapers.

Cheryl (34:54):

It’s just a, an incredible, vista to, to, to, to find images. And, and so, I made a film, uh, now, I don’t know, 10, more than 10 years ago. Uh, about, came out about 10 years ago. it was initially a commission from the Seaport Museum, if you remember that museum (laughs). It went underwater, um-

David (35:16):

Yeah.

Cheryl (35:16):

But they were doing an Alfred Steiglitz  exhibition and they wanted to bring in a younger audience, a different audience. And a friend of mine that was working with them reached out to me and she said, uh, “Come up with an idea,” and I said, “I wanted to make a film about street photographers that kind of followed in his footsteps,” and went to the streets and made a substantial body of work. But that was living to talk to me. And so, I got to meet my idols and made this short, and then I went back and kept going, and, and made a feature it was about 12 artists. the older ge- older generation, you know.

Cheryl (35:56):

There’s an incredible amount of great street photographers and you have to make

Cheryl (36:00):

… your choice when you make a feature film, you have 90 minutes to tell some stories and you have to allow enough time for people to care about your character, so I chose to concentrate on the artist that had, you know, longer careers because maybe my time was more limited to speak to them. And, and already, three artists have passed since I made that film, so I think it’s an important, you know, I don’t know-

David (36:46):

Yeah. So, Ricky Powell, who passed this year, who was a friend and also, had been on this podcast. And-

Cheryl (36:53):

That was an amazing podcast (laughing). I remember listening to it.

David (36:56):

Thank you. Yeah, it’s a classic. What was it that stood out, in terms of Ricky? Because a movie came out about him, The Individualist, uh, recently that also played at the Tribeca Film Festival. I don’t know if you saw it or not. Did you?

Cheryl (37:31):

I knew Ricky, um, you know, from the streets, of course, and, uh, and Legend, and, um, from the Beastie Boys. There’s many characteristics that go into, a great street photographer, and, and sometimes, people have one or two. And, he was so, you know, he was really different than a lot of the other artists in the film. He kind of was that New York City character that you look for in the streets to photograph, he was-

David (38:11):

Right.

Cheryl (38:11):

… that guy (laughing) you know. So, he could go up to anybody and talk to them, and get them to pose, because he just had this New York way. I mean, he, like, when he passed, it was like a piece of New York fell off into the river. I mean, he just is such a quintessential New Yorker and he’s the kooky guy that… he’s the character that I like, that I search for on the streets. He’s that guy, you know. He just could say anything to anyone and get people to pose, obviously, when you look at his work.

Cheryl (38:50):

And, and I’m really happy about, this new doc because they really went into his archive, and, and they really pulled out images I had never seen and, uh, that are amazing.

David (39:04):

And, and before that, you were into the skate scene as well. I remember seeing, one of your pieces, your Mark Gonzalez video that I still remember as one of the best pieces of skateboard art that I’ve ever seen and, you know, something that everything should look at. I think you can see it on YouTube, right?

Cheryl (39:26):

It’s called Backwards-Forwards. It was a skate ballet that he made, and performed in a museum in, uh, Monchengladbach, Germany. Can say it ’cause I had to say it a million times, he’s an incredible artist and incredible athlete, and, um, and poet. I have a dance background not really a skateboard background at all. I didn’t even know any skateboarders in high school, but I really responded to the movement and I think that he chose me to make that film because maybe I wasn’t a skateboard photographer or filmmaker.

Cheryl (40:15):

And the things that I picked out were, um, you know, someone asked me, like, “Why do you, why did you put so much of him falling?” And I’m like, “Because peoples’ bodies, when they’re falling, are so elegant and amazing,” and I don’t know, it was, was a mix, but, you know, I think it’s kinda taboo, you know. You never show the skaters falling, but I always showed everyone falling ’cause I thought it was beautiful, you know. 

 

David (40:55):

Yeah, there’s so much about that skateboarding era that’s growing all the time. Another movie, uh, recently about skateboarding and hip-hop that pulls in a lot of that.

 

David (41:12):

All the Streets Are Silent, yeah.

Cheryl (41:13):

Yeah. Nice, it’s a nice movie. Yeah.

David (41:16):

you’ve been right, there, for a lot of the different important scenes of New York. I don’t know if you said this, but some people have said that Dash is passing, mark the end of an era, that everything changed at that-

Cheryl (41:34):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cheryl (41:41):

No. I’ve heard it, I’ve heard it from people, you know. I feel like the streets have energy, and communities have an energetic feeling. And, he was like a light, and when that light went out, and the way it went out, people really changed course, you know. Like, it made a-

David (42:15):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Cheryl (42:15):

… tidal-

David (42:16):

Oh, yeah.

Cheryl (42:16):

… wave of, of, of change that happened when he passed. and then there was a hole. There was an absence of, um, certain excitement and momentum, there was an abrupt halt.

David (42:35):

certainly for his friends and the people who were around him, like Leo Fitzpatrick, who I know is in your film, and it was also on my podcast, he talks about Dash very lovingly and remembers him as just a very fun person, happy person, to, someone that he really enjoyed being with, and that was what was the important thing for him. you were able to capture that as well, your name comes up, in fact, in that podcast, as, caring about his legacy and his story.

David (43:15):

And exactly the way he started out the podcast talking about that, of how you, you wanted to protect him and be able to tell the story from a humanistic kind of family of, this new family that he put together after leaving his original family. So good job.

Cheryl (43:35):

… yeah. I mean, thank you. I think that, um, ultimately, it’s a story- I had an artist friend say to me, like, “What are you working on?” While I was entrenched in this for many, many years, and I told him and he said, “Why?” And I first was offended (laughs) ish, uh, then I was like, “‘Cause that’s what I do,” and then I was like, “Okay, I like that question,” and I’m like, “Because he was a, a, a boy, he was a person.” if I was making a film about a kid in Appalachia that had a story, it’s enough, you know. This is a human story, this is his story. He moved me, he moved a lot of people I know.

Cheryl (44:21):

But even if he just moved me, because when you make a film, you’re gonna be making that film for years and years and years. And if you are not making that film for the right reasons, you’re gonna wanna kill yourself, you know. So, you better (laughing) you better have something that keeps driving you to tell that story, you know. And, to me, because he was a visual artist, because I had these, you know, really, kinda close s- not-for-anything conversations with him on tape, um, I coulda made that film with no other voice in it, because he’s a visual artist, so he’s speaking through his work, he’s speaking on my camera. I, I have his voice, you know.

Cheryl (45:13):

I really wanted it to be predominantly in his words and, and have friends supplement these stories, and that’s kinda the direction I went because to me, that was the, truest portrayal I could make. But every film has a point of view. You’re the director, it’s your point of view, there’s nothing that doesn’t have a point of view. So, I tried my best to do that. And my point of view was nothing, nothing but love, so, you know-

David (45:52):

Well, we’re very fortunate that you did that, Cheryl. And thank you for being on my-

Cheryl (45:55):

Thank you.

David (45:55):

… show today, and I just wanna say that you succeeded and I think you made one of the most important and beautiful, uh, films of an artist that I’ve ever seen. So-

Cheryl (45:55):

Oh, wow.

David (45:55):

… it’s-

Cheryl (45:55):

That’s so sweet to say, thank you.

David (45:55):

Yeah. So, thank you for being on my show.

Cheryl (46:10):

Thank you.

 

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