March 1, 2023 – Fischl originally moved to New York City in 1978 and was part of the class of artists following the Abstract Expressionists, who he described as “super drinkers.” His own story of sobriety began in 1987, days after his show at the Whitney Museum, which he told me he was “incredibly drunk and stoned for.” Preceding Fischl’s decision to get sober, he said, was a fear “that I wouldn’t be funny anymore.” 

Many artists I spoke with elicited similar feelings of anxiety about navigating the social side of the art world while sober. Recalling a conversation with the late New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, who had been sober for almost 30 years at the time of his death in October 2022, Fischl added: “He said the thing about stopping drinking is that you gain your mornings, but you lose your nights.”  Depending on who I spoke with, the definition of sobriety varied. Some individuals defined sobriety as consuming no mind-altering substances of any kind, while others believe concessions can and should be made for prescribed substances such as Adderall or medical marijuana.


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