2007-07-27 / Front Page

Mystery Remains In Beach Disappearance Of Artist

Blake's Body Still Missing, Blogs Hint At A Hoax
By Howard Schwach

Police and Fire Department divers prepare to go into the water as a police launch waits off shore. Police and Fire Department divers prepare to go into the water as a police launch waits off shore. Police and fire officials have called off the search for Jeremy Blake, 36, of Manhattan, a noted artist whose clothing and identification were found along with what has been called a "hand-written suicide note" on the Rockaway beachfront on the evening of July 16.

As reported in last week's Wave, two local residents saw a man take off his clothing and walk into the water. When he did not come out, they became concerned and called the 911 emergency system, sparking a response that included helicopters and scuba divers searching the water for nearly three days.

Based on a review of the identification cards and other items found on the beach, including the note, police presume that the man who entered the water was Blake.

Friends reported Blake as "despondent" over the death of his long-time companion, Theresa Duncan, 40, who was found dead two weeks ago in the East Village apartment they shared. Publish- ed reports say that a bottle of pills and alcohol were found near Duncan's body and that she left a suicide note saying that she was at peace with her decision and that she loved Blake and her family deeply.

Blake reportedly found Duncan's body in their apartment. They had been together for 12 years, according to sources.

The couple had moved to Manhattan from Los Angeles last February to work on new projects.

Duncan, a filmmaker, writer and author of the popular blog, "The Wit of the Staircase," posted her last message on her blog the day before she died.

Blake was a highly-regarded digital animator. His work has appeared in three Whitney Biennials and is in the permanent collection of both the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. In addition, he worked on Adam Sandler's movie, "Punch-Drunk Love."

He is known in the art world for photographs and DVD's that mix visual narrative with abstract forms.

He was to open a new show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in the fall.

A police source told the Daily News that Blake's suicide note, found on top of his folded clothing on Beach 108 Street, said that he could "not imagine ever living without [Duncan]."

Lance Kinz, whose Chelsea gallery represented Blake's work, said that the double suicide was "unexpected."

"It was a double shock," he told Daily News reporter Larry Celona. "This is an extraordinarily sad story. He couldn't go on without her, so he decided to be with her, so to speak."

Some friends, however, indicated in print and on the Web that they did not believe that the two had committed suicide.

Blake Robin, a long-time friend of the couple, said, "suicide was not in their agenda, not on their to-do list."

"The narrative of the wallet and the clothing under the boardwalk, it's like somebody writing a cliché. It's not them. It would be an embarrassment to them," Robin wrote.

Marshall Sponder, who writes the "ArtNYC" blog was stronger in his disbelief at the story of Blake's suicide.

"Something does not add up," he wrote recently. "My intuition is that some vital part of the story is missing here. You watch enough detective stories and you know that anything is possible. I hope that the police find the truth, because maybe it wasn't suicide."

Ron Rosenbaum, writing on his own blog, said, "The fact that a woman called in the report is important. Perhaps he parked his car, left his clothes, wallet and note and then faked his suicide. He disappeared and he could have done that for any number of reasons. Enter the ex-girlfriend, who could have been the one who made the call."

Police sources, however, say that they are satisfied that it was Blake who entered the water on July 16 and that his probable death was a case of suicide.

Those sources say, however, that a body lost off the beach in Rockaway usually surfaces within a short period of time.

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