I asked where Snow spent his childhood.
“All over,” he told me. “Different places in Manhattan. But, uh, I don’t know, I got in a lot of trouble. I won’t get too deep into this one, but I was in a juvenile-detention center from 13 to 15—like, two years?” He was guilty, he said, of being a free spirit. “And then I came out, and from 15 on, I was just on my own.”
Rebelling against your famous art family by becoming a famous artist is a pretty interesting way to rebel.
I asked Snow if, instead of stealing, he could have gotten money to live from his grandmother Christophe De Menil, who lived in a magnificent carriage house she had redone by Frank Gehry and Douglas Wheeler, with a swimming pool on the ground floor. “Probably,” he said. “I never asked. I do my own thing.”
“But Dash’s grandmother is the best...” said McGinley.
“I see her here and there,” Snow interrupted.
“She’s always taking care of us...”
“Getting us drunk,” said Snow. Snow said he has no contact with his parents. “Cut off. Scumbags.”
But as it happens, this isn’t quite true. There was a giant photograph on the wall of a man snorting cocaine, and it’s Chris Snow, Dash’s father; I recognized him from one of McGinley’s binders.
“Well, yeah, I like him, we just don’t talk that much,” Snow said when I asked about it.
“You do talk to your dad!” McGinley shouted. “We’ve all hung out with your dad!”
Snow thought for a minute, then revised. “Recently, my dad and I got back in touch,” he said. “He’s awesome. During the seventies, he was just on his own and then he joined a traveling medicine man on the West Coast doing peyote. He’s a weirdo. I remember at one point he was living with this Native American woman? And they had, like, white doves flying around their apartment shitting on everything. We got tattoos. He got Snowman 1 and I got Snowman 2,” he said, and showed me his arm. But he really doesn’t speak to his mother, Snow said. Ever.
He picked up a human skull from the floor. “Look at how scary that is, man. I can’t believe that … it’s so creepy. I’m going to do a come-shot series on the faces of the skulls, but after I come on them, I’ll throw glitter on them to make it pretty. Hey, look, he’s missing the same tooth as you, Ryan,” said Snow, and poked his finger into the empty space in the skull’s mouth.
Then he told a long story about how eight cops chased him across Highway 101 in Los Angeles, and beat him up when they caught him. “They forced me to my knees, they’re slapping me and shit, saying, ‘Where are your friends? You long-haired faggot, you’re pretty manly for a bitch!’ ” He was sentenced to community service, cleaning up L.A.’s skid row. “It was such a fucked-up dope neighborhood, crack neighborhood, and people just take shits on the street, and I would have to power-hose it off. I would clean out all these fucking things with a bandanna over my face, and I would take my lunch break and come back and every spot, all the corners, were all filled with shit again. They’d be laughing at me because they knew; they’d go shit there again the second I fucking go to have some food.”
There were a lot of stories like this—Snow baiting and then evading the cops, cracking heads or getting his head cracked. He has made himself believe that he is pursued by the police, that they are obsessed with him, and not the other way around. Snow is an electric and funny storyteller, but there can be something a little unpleasant about his relentless commitment to criminality: Dash Snow, Liberator of Birdcages.
Snow took us into his bedroom to try to find some Polaroids from California, and McGinley put on his parka and lay down on the mattress. There was very little white wall space; Snow covers almost every inch with clippings and posters and photographs and sketches. Snow had a girl named Jade over here the previous night, and he pointed out where she wrote her phone number on the bottom of one of his bookshelves. I asked him if he was in love.
“I kind of am, actually.”
“You’re in lust!” said McGinley.
“Whatever, man. I haven’t been psyched on someone in a long time. I met this lady, and I told her I wouldn’t leave the party without a kiss. She’s rad. Lemme use your phone?”
“Make it snappy, Happy,” said McGinley and passed it to him.
“There’s no feeling like that: when you’re psyched on somebody. Like this morning? I woke up smiling.” Snow left the room to make the call and returned triumphant. “She’s coming over, and we’re going to take a bath.”
He lay down next to McGinley and produced some photos of the London Hamster’s Nest, all of which featured Dan Colen’s impressive penis and two naked girls.
“Dan’s a grower and a shower,” said Snow, and got into the parka with McGinley so both of their heads were inside the hood. There is a physicality between these guys, in their photos and in life, that you usually only see among little kids. That McGinley is gay makes no difference to avidly straight Colen and Snow: They don’t care about sexual orientation, they care about sex.