May, 1991: David asks his friend Marion Scemama to accompany him on a last roadtrip for a month out west. They spend days exploring Death Valley, California, then Flagstaff, Arizona and Gallup, New Mexico. These landscapes, some of the emptiest places on earth, have a special allure for David. On May 25th, he resolves to create his last self-portrait, “Untitled (Face in Dirt)” with the help of Scemama in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. A gelatin-silver print, Untitled (Face in Dirt), is printed posthumously, in 1992.
More than a decade earlier, David seemed to describe the image, writing: “I am the face beneath the sand still breathing while day pulls down from the sky, and I leaned back thinking he should have guaranteed entrance to heaven.”
In a 1979 journal entry, David recounts a dream: “They’ve buried me in the coarse brown earth, all the way up to my teeth; somehow the mouth must be opened wide so that filings of dirt spread within the jaw, over the white porcelain teeth, leaving one tooth exposed down to the gum.” Presciently, he ends the journal entry: “in the moment the morphine comes within inches of me I feel secure and the matter of having no home becomes something relegated to the myself of the past. Nothing matters as much as the warm sensation spreading towards the skull, all is solved and nothing wanted.”