Arbus experienced "depressive episodes" during her life, similar to those experienced by her mother; the episodes may have been made worse by symptoms of hepatitis. In 1968, Arbus wrote a letter to a personal friend, Carlotta Marshall, that says: "I go up and down a lot. Maybe I’ve always been like that. Partly what happens though is I get filled with energy and joy and I begin lots of things or think about what I want to do and get all breathless with excitement and then quite suddenly either through tiredness or a disappointment or something more mysterious the energy vanishes, leaving me harassed, swamped, distraught, frightened by the very things I thought I was so eager for! I’m sure this is quite classic." Her ex-husband once noted that she had "violent changes of mood". On July 26, 1971, while living at Westbeth Artists Community in New York City, Arbus died by suicide by ingesting barbiturates and cutting her wrists with a razor. She wrote the words "Last Supper" in her diary and placed her appointment book on the stairs leading up to the bathroom. Marvin Israel found her body in the bathtub two days later; she was 48 years old. Photographer Joel Meyerowitz told journalist Arthur Lubow, "If she was doing the kind of work she was doing and photography wasn’t enough to keep her alive, what hope did we have?
Several recurring archetypal characters appear in the book: the idealized father, the despised mother, and a troubled girl with masochistic tendencies. Disconcertingly, Zürn's death seems to be foreshadowed in the text as the protagonist of Dark Spring eventually commits suicide by jumping out of her bedroom window.
“graphic poetry”—a combination of writing and drawing in which the drawings are linguistic and the writing is a form of drawing.
Write me an autograph
in the village they call me Sophie cocaine
pythia—woman—with powers—pluto—or deadly viper
hence—the Pythagorean table: python—African snake
Venus—of a thousand waters and a day
In 1969, when she was fifteen, she met the cohort of émigrés from various countries who, together with Podolski, would become the Montfaucon Research Center. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia around age eleven, however, and her illness worsened as she grew into adulthood. She died in 1974, at age twenty-one, from injuries sustained in a suicide attempt.
De zelfmoord van Podolski was haast onvermijdelijk. ‘Ze was heel bang om 21 te worden. Ze vreesde als meerderjarige geïnterneerd te worden. Dat wilde ze niet. De avond voor haar dood had ze nog afgesproken met haar jongere zus. Het was een afscheid’, vertelt Da La Casinière. ‘Niemand kon haar helpen. Het leven viel haar gewoon te zwaar.’
‘In haar werk neemt de dood een belangrijke plaats in’, zegt Dumalin. Al op haar 16de stelde ze zich existentiële vragen over het leven. Ze was erg in de ban van het existentialisme van Sartre. Naarmate ze ouder werd, werden haar teksten donkerder, hoewel ze in haar werk ook een lichtvoetige humor uitstraalde. Sophie was een erg complexe vrouw. Ik had haar graag gekend, al weet ik niet of ik haar altijd zou begrijpen.’