For your summer reading pleasure, BURNAWAY brings you Just Like Suicide, a novel by artist Mery Lynn McCorkle, set in the Los Angeles art world. She writes from experience, having lived for years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when it still was the art frontier, and then LA; she now resides in Rome, Georgia. She describes the book as “a compendium of interlocking tales cataloguing self demolition and success in the Los Angeles art scene, from the point of view of artists, dealers and family members.”
We’ll post sequential chapters from McCorkle’s book every Wednesday and Friday over the summer (and on Monday’s beginning in August!). Or click here to buy the book now.
Lori sat on a wooden chair in the garage her husband had converted into a studio. She admired the neatly mudded and painted walls with no ridges or dimples, the unsagging insulation stapled across the ceiling. He did everything so well, even on a severely limited budget. She had been almost sad to work on the white walls. She mentioned this to her mother-in-law who presented her with three boxes of white miracle sponges to scrub off the stray pencil and charcoal marks. A sweet gesture if misguided. Worrying about the walls would be a distraction from production and that’s never a good thing. She’d tried being neater before and it gummed up the process. Mess was integral to how she worked. Hondo was right about this: mess is liberating.
And she needed to be as productive as possible for them to stay afloat. Both batches of small drawings she had left with Odessa had almost completely sold. The economy wasn’t improving but thankfully Odessa had connected with a bunch of new collectors. Those sales had kept them from going completely bankrupt after Brendan was laid off four months ago. They had cut down on every expense they could, selling her sweet subcompact car, eliminating cable TV, deferring any cell phone upgrades. Their phones were positively antiquated now. They’d even moved everything from storage into his house. The tiny spare bedroom was now crammed floor to ceiling, mostly with paintings she had started and wanted to think about or ones which hadn’t sold. In short, a repository of false starts and failures. The worst part of downsizing was walking away from her own house. She loved that house but she bought it at the worst possible time. Her payments were based on its real estate bubble value, twice what the house was now worth. There was no way to cover the payment even with Brendan working. She hated losing it – it was the perfect house, her dream house, she had loved it from the second she walked in the wide front door – but they couldn’t afford to live in it and she couldn’t rent it for even half of what her payments were. She really had tried to keep it because real estate always rebounds. After she ran through almost all of her savings to cover the gap, her tenant lost his job and stopped paying rent. For six months, she struggled with the mortgage company, trying to put together a short sale, and when that didn’t work, a modified loan. She ran out of options. Then she read that the Mortgage Bankers Association walked away from their own headquarters in Washington, DC. Why should she behave differently? So she walked away too. Well, her credit was shot for a decade. Keeping up his much smaller house payment was still hard but if they lost his house and tanked his credit rating, no one would loan them money. Fortunately, the art sales got them a month ahead on his house payments and paid off almost all of the balance on her credit card debt. Children are crazy expensive even if you don’t buy half of the stuff you think you need. Just thinking about debt got her heart racing.
Health insurance was now the major problem. When Brendan lost his job, they paid through the roof to continue his policy but lost their coverage completely three months later. The company just dropped them. When Brendan tried to get health insurance before the policy expired, they were told that the pregnancy was a preexisting condition and were denied coverage from five different companies. Their timing sucked. Another year or so and the new health care laws would prevent companies from rejecting them. And to top it off, they had earned too much last year to qualify for any kind of federal assistance. She sighed. Their timing just sucked, but who said life is fair? Fortunately, she had visited a doctor a month ago, the very last day covered by insurance, and they didn’t notify her anything was wrong. How much harder can it be to have one more baby? After all, her “lady parts” were already stretched out courtesy of the twins. She had a whole geography of stretch marks to prove it.
She had to stop worrying about all that. She had to focus on her work. So she did her breathing exercises and looked across the studio. In front of her, neatly tacked onto the remaining clean wall were the newest completed drawings, twelve of them. She originally was irritated that she couldn’t work with the intensity she thought they deserved, but the need to sit and put her feet up forced her to take more time to reflect. These actually were the best work she had done to date. She didn’t, however, take that assessment too seriously. Like most artists, she fell in love with what she was doing, with the process and materials, with the physical gestures required, and only later could register any kind of objectivity. Odessa was supposed to come over at the end of the week to take a peek. Odessa would tell her the truth. Lori was trying to get the next three, taped up on a dirty wall, finished before then. She liked working on several at a time – it kept them from becoming too precious and added a continuity to the grouping. Two in the first set sold as a diptych to one collector. Odessa had someone already interested in seeing the new ones so she needed to get them done today in order to have a few days to make the minor corrections they always required. These three were really close to being done and the best of the newest lot.