The book meticulously examines the raw, nervy exit wounds her artist father created when he died in 2000. What begins as an unimaginable loss is transmuted into an unforgettable story about love, artistic influence, addiction, and legacy. From Joe Schactman’s impact on the New York gallery scene to his enduring influence on his wildly talented daughter, Negative Space is an emotional archive of an unbearable loss and the proof—and detritus—of the value of love ... Dancyger pivots nimbly through the convergence of...multiple, vivid histories ... For all its analysis of the past, Dancyger’s perspective never veers into the schmaltzy side of nostalgia ... Although Dancyger often imagines [her father] as a lattice, a guide, and a muse, she is also unsparing in her judgment ... The sheer scope of the project is a testament to two ideas: one, that paying attention is the purest form of love, and two, that art is inextricably linked to the essence of the artist. Look, and look again, and forget looking away.
Dancyger carries us back to New York City’s gritty East Village in the 1980s as she investigates Schactman’s tumultuous life. She pages through her father’s old notebooks that she saved after his death ... she interviews Schactman’s friends, colleagues and even her own mother to learn how and why he descended into heroin addiction ... Dancyger’s struggle to escape the need to prove herself to everyone, including her dead father, is moving. Mourning is not linear, and she skillfully shows how grief mutates during different stages of life. The phantasm of closure stalks all of us who have experienced loss, as both Dancyger’s writing and Schactman’s artwork make clear ... Dancyger allows her father to be an imperfect and much loved person—her idol still, but a troubled and complicated one.
A double biography that tells Dancyger's story while simultaneously discovering her dead father's life ... At once an exploration of grief and a literary séance in which the author speaks to her father through art and interviews with his friends and exes, this book is also a coming-of-age narrative where grief and anger become a path that leads to destruction, addiction and, ultimately, redemption ... friends' accounts, Dancyger's own memories — and Schactman's sculptures, prints and paintings — create a map the author uses to navigate her past and her father's life and legacy ... the result is a book in which her feelings are so raw and exposed that it's impossible not to feel them too ... the author's retelling pushes against the boundaries of what we understand as a biography — and turns the narrative into a something like a whodunit, a supernatural thriller in which a journalist interrogates a ghost, a story in which art speaks about the past eloquently, and a biography of how a writer came to be and a daughter learned to live with something that shaped her early life and then shaped her again ... readers acquire a love and respect for both Schactman's work as well as the author's — and that's something anyone who reads this will know he would have been proud of.
... part-memoir, part-art criticism debut in which a bildungsroman-esque narrative of the author’s journey from 'a fatherless girl' to 'a fatherless woman' is braided with an investigation into her deceased father’s art, as well as his past ... Fearing the memory of her father—visual artist Joe Schactman, who participated in the East Village art scene in the 1980s and struggled for years with a heroin addiction—would collapse, Dancyger begins an exploration into his life ... by reaching into the murky depths of memory, dragging something that resembles truth to the surface, she realizes that this reconstructed 'reality' wouldn’t or couldn’t hold more weight than the memory of their relationship ... It is in this reckoning that she finds room to explore her own blossoming as a writer and a person in the world ... Chronicling a somewhat lawless adolescence to an adulthood burgeoning with creativity, academia, and insight, Dancyger reveals a vibrant, gritty world, one which feels all too familiar ... a penetrating, heartfelt story, one which plunges into the rippling depths of grief and remembrance only to change us for the better.