“The history of art is littered with the bodies of dead women.”
Artist Carey Logan made her name by creating hyper-realistic sculptures of bodies in various states of decay, including one memorable piece where body parts were buried, awaiting discovery. In 2008, Carey filled her rain boots with quick-drying cement and walked into a lake at an upstate New York property owned by her art collective, Pine City. Carey’s suicide “opened up the floodgates” for our unnamed narrator, a talented but struggling artist who had admired Carey since a brief but memorable encounter back when the narrator was an art student. In 2011, the pink-haired artist is 34, successful, and still living in an illegal New York loft that doubles as her studio. The series of large-scale paintings she’s spent the last two years working on—titled Humility, Obedience, Chastity, Modesty, Temperance, Purity, and Prudence—are scheduled to be shipped to Paris for a show, but they're all destroyed when the loft burns down. In desperation, the artist tells her gallerist that Prudence was the only casualty and is given a few months to fix it. She’s able to procure a space at Pine City and is allowed the use of Carey Logan’s old studio. The artist throws herself into her work and a passionate affair with Tyler Savage, who makes art out of black-market human organs and was Carey’s boyfriend. The other Pine City members are largely standoffish, and her burning questions about Carey and her rumored final work are decidedly unwelcome. The artist’s three months at the isolated compound are a menacing, swirling, hypnotic dance of parties, art, sex, and, ultimately, startling revelations. Bourland’s (I’ll Eat When I’m Dead, 2017) painstaking research on the practical and emotional aspects of making art is on vivid display. Readers eager for a glimpse into the New York art scene will be enthralled, but despite the glitz and glamour, it’s frequently a dehumanizing place to be, especially for women. After all, as the gallerist says: “Female painters are the bargain of the century.”
A haunting, dizzying meditation on identity and the blurred lines between life and art.