A female art-school graduate chasing the muse of Georgia O'Keeffe in Santa Fe is drawn into a forgery ring and struggles to embrace her individuality as a person.
In Campbell's brief, intensely introspective debut, Ivy Wilkes' dream of becoming a great painter is sidetracked when her upstairs neighbor Maya, a teacher and cellist, talks her into copying O'Keeffe's works with the intention of selling them on the international underground market. Hungry for something to happen in her life, Ivy overcomes her qualms about selling fakes as originals. She buys into the notion that it's a victimless crime—the forgeries are sold to vacuous corporate types who are drawn to the paintings for the prestige they bring and not for their artistic merits. And distributing the copies gives greater exposure to deserving artists like O'Keeffe. Surprised to discover that her lover Omar, a café owner who is Maya's cousin, is also involved in the forgery scheme, Ivy sinks deeper into a life of secrets and lies. She has an affair with Maya's affable live-in boyfriend Jake, a violinist who works as a security guard in the O'Keeffe Museum (where Ivy toils in the gift shop) but knows nothing of the forgeries. Set off by O'Keeffe quotations and shadowed by descriptions of her early years, the book basks in thoughts and feelings on the meaning of art, as well as the nature of love, the contradictions of self and the power of one's surroundings. Campbell's taut, analytical approach doesn't allow much room for humor, and the writing can be a bit swoony. But the pragmatic Omar's downplaying of the role of inspiration in art offsets Ivy's romanticism, and the book draws emotional resonance from the parallels she sees between her life and O'Keeffe's.
An affecting, if self-absorbed, novel about art and the ways it does and doesn't reflect life.