Perhaps the most pitiable image in all of Dante’s Inferno is the wood of suicides. Here, in hell’s Seventh Circle, between a river of boiling blood and a desert of burning sand, is a dense, pathless forest where the souls of the suicides are encased within gnarled trees and fruitless bushes. Odious Harpies–monstrous birds with claws and female faces–race through the wood tearing the trees limb from limb, causing them to bleed. Cries and wails echo in the sunless, starless air.
Throughout her career, but especially in her latest and most wrenching work–Sisters, Saints, & Sibyls, the 39-minute three-screen lamentation that is a duel memoir of her sister’s suicide at the age of 19 and her own mortifications of the flesh and battles with addiction–the photographer Nan Goldin has been one of the great living suicides of recent art history.
more from Salz at the Village Voice here.