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.
Alex invited Maggie to stay with him in Brooklyn but he and his two roommates got a job offer to do an art and music performance in Boston after she’d already booked her nonrefundable flight, so she had the whole shabby place to herself. The bed in his small room sported two down comforters. She’d heard Alex complain enough about the lack of heat in the loft in winter. The lime tree in a pot had frozen to death and still sat there, next to the cracks in the windows taped over with Hello Kitty duct tape. Despite the gaps in the flooring and off-white patches on the high ceiling, his room was very neat. His socks were sorted by color and weight in milk crates stacked in the corner. Who organizes their socks? Her cottage was never this neat, even when she was expecting guests.
The kitchen was one corner of the open space. A shelf full of ornate chipped plates next to simple white mugs and a whole row of very expensive copper pots and pans. The refrigerator was nearly empty except for peanut butter, hot mustard, and a full round of French brie. The adjacent living area consisted of a big couch and several stuffed chairs. They all smelled of fabric freshener. She hoped they’d also been treated for bed bugs and fleas since they obviously were street-side finds.
Written on the back of an envelope, taped on the bathroom mirror with its cracked corner, one of them had written, “’Life is an illusion. I am held together in the nothingness by art.’ Anselm Kiefer.” The bathroom itself was far cleaner than it had any right to be. The toilet and sink looked like they belonged in a landfill. The shower was a cheap vinyl prefab with a crack down the back. Duct tape apparently was their fix-it for all ruptures.
Living the life of the artist.
Alex had left her a grouping of postcards down the middle of his bed. She picked each one up and read it. Quotes from Agnes Martin on the back. Images of classical Greek sculpture on the front.
Behind the serene Apollo from the west pediment at Olympia: “When I think of art, I think of beauty. Beauty is the mystery of life. It is not in the eye, it is in the mind there is an awareness of beauty.”
Behind the raging horse’s head from the east pediment of the Parthenon: “All artwork is about beauty: all positive work represents it. All negative art protests the lack of beauty in our lives.”
Behind the headless Nike of Samothrace: “All human knowledge is useless in artwork.”
Alex obviously left these as a brain teaser since the final quote in particular was so out of keeping with Greek thought. Greeks would be baffled by the “knowledge is useless in artwork.” Reason and knowledge allowed for harmony. Emotions, passions were chaos. So knowledge and reason allowed beauty to flourish. Like Michelangelo’s comment that “A man paints with his brains, not with his hands.” Agnes Martin was taking both sides in these quotes. Beauty exists in the mind which is filled with knowledge and observations yet knowledge is useless in artwork. Maybe what she was saying is art transcends knowledge and strives for magic. The inexplicable, often labeled divine. But then maybe she wasn’t clear herself about what she was saying.