I can imagine Theresa Duncan waiting on a cloud for her partner Jeremy Blake to join her. When he floated up to where she was, she would say dryly, "You forgot your pants." He would laugh and then they would join hands and soar to new heights together. I can imagine her in a floor-length vintage Pucci dress and silver Prada heels which she would kick off as they took flight and aim them in the direction of a couple of people she would like to hit in the head.
I met Jeremy in graduate school at CalArts in 1993. There was a pack of us who started
school that fall who thought we would conquer the world. We would sit on the tailgate of a pick-up during breaks from Michael Asher's marathon Friday post-studio class and drink whiskey and talk about our work. Making art
was a serious business and CalArts was a sink or swim kind of a school. Jeremy was always a very good swimmer.
He made paintings of smoke and sculpture about his father who had died when he was 17. He was funny, brooding and gentle. He broke up a fight between me and a friend once, all in the name of art. "Here, here now!" he said, "You two are acting like children."
After school, he headed to New York. He told me he was smitten with a girl he had met and I looked forward to getting a good look at her. I first met Theresa at his opening at Works on Paper in Los Angeles. She was tall and beautiful and stylish. But that was just a first impression. When they moved back to Los Angeles several years later, we became friends. She was sharp, driven and passionate, and at times intimidating. She was mad as a hatter and wise as an owl. Her knowledge of pop culture seemed endless. She was the alpha dog. And it was quite apparent that if provoked, she would bite. She's been accused of shaving a few years off her age and having a deal or two fall through. But this is Hollywood. She was always tender with my son, interested in my work and declared that the chocolates my mother makes at Christmastime were the finest in the world. So she did lie a little bit at times. All the best storytellers do.
For my birthday several years ago, I had a cakewalk at my studio in Hollywood. When Theresa won the cakewalk, instead of choosing the biggest and best cake, she happily chose the ugliest one, the one that didn't turn out quite right. She loved old and rare perfumes and could describe fragrances in a way that sounded like poetry.
Jeremy and Theresa often had small parties at their place in Venice and when I had the pleasure of attending, it felt like the best place to be in the world. They could throw together an after-dinner party in the blink of an eye with a bottle of champagne, a bag of potato chips, great conversation and a log for the fire. House arrest at their place would have been a treat. It was filled with curious things; books stacked everywhere, art, photographs, music, their dog Tuesday and much evidence of a loving and creative life together.
Jeremy began making video work that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. They have been described as "moving paintings" but to me they are like the mind of a madman genius turned inside out and projected on a screen. I saw his Winchester Trilogy at SFMOMA and I thought it was a masterpiece.
He made time to come by my studio, to consider my work carefully, and to encourage and support me. He often suggested ideas about how to make my sculpture more "museum ready," trying to catch me up with the rest of the pack. He was a loyal friend and a gentleman: he always picked up the tab and walked me to my car to make sure I was safe. On top of all this, of course, he was an exceptional artist. And he had become a star. He seemed to carry it well.
It is hard for me to believe that these two people do not exist in the world anymore. The wattage has gone dimmer now. I am sad for the work Jeremy will never make and the things Theresa will never write. I think about him walking into the Atlantic that night and hope the water was at least a little warm. They seemed unstoppable, and indeed they were.