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Fake Like Me
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After a fire rips through her loft, destroying the seven billboard-size paintings meant for her first major exhibition, a young painter is left with an impossible task: recreate the lost artworks in just three months without getting caught — or ruin her fledgling career. Homeless and desperate, she begs her way into Pine City, an exclusive retreat in upstate New York notorious for three things: outrageous revelries, glamorous artists, and the sparkling black lake where brilliant prodigy Carey Logan drowned herself.
Taking up residence in Carey’s former studio, the painter works with obsessive, delirious focus. But when she begins to uncover strange secrets at Pine City and falls hard for Carey’s mysterious boyfriend, a single thought shadows her every move: What really happened to Carey Logan?
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Carey Logan Retrospective
Coming to Young Museum
The Young Museum announced today that Carey Logan, the artist known for her hyperrealist sculptures who committed suicide by drowning in 2008, will be the subject of a sweeping retrospective at the museum this October.
Dramatic rumors of an as-yet-unseen final work have churned through Chelsea for months, and the museum confirmed today that the exhibition, BODY OF WORK, will include all of Logan's sculptural and performance works, including the rumored final work. A source from within the institution told The Times that the final work has not been viewed by the curators, and that it will not even be transported to the museum until the exhibition's opening night.
Ms. Logan's vivid, detailed representations of human bodies could be—and often were—easily mistaken for the real thing. Made from combinations of ceramics, resin, paper, ink and oil paint, the sculptures were both a visual pun on the currency of a market where the greatest quantities of money so often change hands over the estates of dead artists, and a running commentary on the subjugation and degradation of women.
Her bodies were exhibited all over the world and acquired by dozens of private collectors. But in 2006, Ms. Logan ceased her sculptural work entirely and devoted herself to an earnest revival of 1970s performance art. In separate performances at the Eliot&Sprain gallery over the two years preceding her death, Ms. Logan choked, passed out, slept and stayed awake for days, all on public view, to mixed reviews.
It is not clear whether her final artwork was also made at Eliot&Sprain, or even what medium it is in.
A source familiar with the work who wishes to remain anonymous was unwilling to provide further details. "It cannot be described," they wrote to The Times in an email. "It is fascinating, highly personal, explicit and extremely upsetting, and must be seen to be believed and understood in its full context."
BODY OF WORK will open October 21, 2012, and run through June of the following year.
The first time I saw the five members of Pine City, I was nineteen years old. They were standing outside what would someday become Team Gallery on Grand Street in Soho, sharing cigarettes and laughing. It seems in my memory that everyone in the intersection turned to look—that cabbies craned their necks through the half-lowered windows of their broad yellow Crown Victorias, that shop owners materialized in open doorways, that even the old women walking arm in arm behind me stopped to gawk—at those five ravishing, obscene young people on a street corner. In person they seemed like these glamorous lightning bolts, something between human and divine, the embodiment of the moment Zeus turned into a swan or a cow or whatever other thing that was not human but was still a fuckable divine being. It was shocking, to me, how they looked.
Pine City was the name of their group—their collective—though they didn't make work together. Three of them had graduated from the art school where I was a currently a sophomore, and all five made the type of nihilistic, shrewdly absurd work that smart young people on drugs will inevitably make, and it was of a kind, it seemed like a collective action, so they became famous together—for their work but mostly for being bad, for being attractive and defiant, for making money and lighting it on fire. And like everybody else at the Academy, I was completely obsessed with them.
A poster for Carey Logan's show, THE BURIAL PROJECT, had been wheatpasted on the side of the college's non-ferrous metal forge two months earlier. Selling off meals from my dining plan at half price ginned up enough cash for a same-day round-trip bus ticket in and out of Chinatown, and so—there I went.
The walk to Soho took only a few minutes. After rounding the corner at Grand Street, I was almost an hour early, and unprepared for Pine City to simply be there in the street.
By contrast, anyone could tell that I was a college sophomore. Baby fat rolled over the waistband of my jeans, pushed uncomfortably against the sleeves of my thrift-store shirt, and my skin was rosy, flushed even, from crippling self-consciousness. My head swerved. Time slowed, to fractions of seconds, as I moved my eyes to the toes of my shoes. Who did I think I was? The answer, of course, was nobody.
I was nobody.
It took one turn of my body to become a shadow—another girl on the street—and I kept walking west on the cobblestone streets of Soho, holding myself as though I knew where I was going. Blocks away I climbed up into an empty loading dock and sat cross-legged, metal-and-glass grating pressing into my ankles. I watched people go by and wrote in my notebook for an hour until the clock turned eight. I did know enough to know that I should wait for the party to get going. I think I ate a banana out of my backpack, and that was my dinner.
It was my first time ever in New York City.
When I returned to the gallery, it was packed. Spidery people poured out of the massive double doors. My first impression was the scent of fading chlorine mixed with Chanel No. 19 and du Maurier cigarettes, and my second was of secrets being exchanged, of whispers floating from lipsticked mouths to earlobes encrusted in diamond-bedecked safety pins. Somebody passed me a cold beer out of a trash can filled with ice, but before I could even say thank you, they were gone, another body in their place: a thin man in a gray flannel three-piece suit. He wiped his nose with his folded handkerchief and it came away with a blossoming red stain. He caught me staring and winked. I looked away, uncomfortable, then watched a wasplike woman—her shoulder blades sharp, like wings—pull up in a cab. She threw a twenty at the driver, the crumpled bill sailing through the divide, then crossed the sidewalk confidently in a low-cut lavender dress before compressing herself into the packed gallery and disappearing.
The overall crowd has glommed together in retrospect into a shiny, pointy landscape of shadows—of willowy, satin-haired city people, fine and crisp, black and white, like a Stockholm funeral. Mostly, I remember feeling mortified—of myself, of my oversize man's shirt and ripped jeans and Chucks and pink hair (Why did I think this was a cool outfit, I look terrible, grunge is over, grunge is for kids, nobody here is a kid except me). I would have left early but didn't know how; the Chinatown bus stop was a bedraggled street corner covered in bursting garbage bags and milky puddles of sewage, no exchange office in sight. Later I would learn you could give the ticket to any driver for any bus going your way, and if there were enough seats, you were fine. But that night I didn't know. I thought I would have to wait—so I did.
Someone passed me another beer. Halfway through it, I started to feel a little brave. Maybe it was the contact high of everyone else's self-possession: The people around me, kissing and hugging and drinking and talking, sincerely acted like they owned the entire world. I'd never seen such a concentration of confidence. Now I think that every single moment of every single day, somewhere new becomes the center of the universe, if only for a second—and that night, it was us. Or rather—it was them, Pine City, and I happened to be there.
The show was roaring in the middle of the gallery, but the crowd was so dense I could barely see anything without shoving, which I couldn't imagine doing, so I remained in the corner until a third beer. Then, emboldened, I pushed through.
I spotted Jes Winsome first. Tall Jes, with her blue-black hair, lounged in the lap of a clean-shaven man in a tuxedo. He fed her puffs of light-blue cotton candy while one of her naked feet sat in a tub of wet, white plaster. Behind her, Marlin Mayfield—lanky, densely freckled—dumped a bottle of pink wine over her white t-shirt and white jeans. She laughed hysterically while Tyler Savage, the one who looked like a professional tennis player, ran his fingers up her stomach. The fourth member of Pine City, Jack Wells, spoke animatedly to a golden-haired teenage girl in a buttery fur coat, pale like butterscotch, that swung around her in a dream.
Finally, Carey Logan, the smallest one, worked around them, mixing quick-dry plaster into plastic tubs at a rapid, balletic pace. Even in that room of overly confident downtown people, her confidence stood out; it was in her movements, in her posture, in her step. There was a surety in her that I envied and coveted immediately. I hadn't seen a lot of women behave that way. Hardly any—certainly none under forty. She was twenty-four years old at the time.
Carey cast forty-two different body parts that night, including mine, though it took me another hour and another beer to work up the courage to get in line. When she got close to me, I realized we were the same build, our hands almost the same size. Yet our bodies held space differently. Where I slumped, she was rigid; where I shrank, she expanded.
"Don't move your hand," she whispered. "Not until I say. Or it'll be ruined."
"You smell like grapefruit," was all I could manage to reply. Her whole face opened up, those round cheeks and tiny pink lips drawing away to reveal a jumbled mouthful of pearl-white teeth, and she gave me a smile so luminous that I thought, for a moment, that we were friends.
"I like your hair," she complimented me back. "It's cool."
"Thank you," I whispered, then immediately felt a rush of embarrassment. I sounded grateful and reverent—too reverent. My eyes fell to the floor, and our connection was broken. She moved on to the next setup, the next body part. I remained still and obedient.
All five members of Pine City, Jack Wells, Jes Winsome, Tyler Savage, Marlin Mayfield, and Carey Logan, were right there. I resumed my regular slump, receding naturally into the background, where I could watch them from the safest, most invisible emotional distance.
Jes, still perched atop the man in the tuxedo who was diligently peeling the cotton candy from its paper cone and depositing it on her tongue, watched Carey languidly. Jes never smiled—not once—nor did she speak. She was solid, like an object, like a sculpture, and silence suited her. The more conventionally outgoing Marlin and Tyler were caught up with a group of admirers, people more arachnid than human, light drowning in the hard beetle-black of their eyes. Tyler glanced occasionally at us, Carey's subjects, peeking up and down the row before returning to smile at whatever compliment had been laid at his feet. Marlin put her arm on top of Tyler's shoulder and ran her fingers across the shortest part of his haircut, at the nape of his neck.
I wanted to reach out and do that, too.
Jack had turned his attention away from the butterscotch blonde and was hovering behind Carey, watching her mix, and pour, and dip—and whisper. When someone put hands on Carey—on her arm or shoulder or wrist as she leaned in to speak—Jack's eyes narrowed, and focused, until there was distance again. He monitored every conversation, ensuring that no one crossed her boundaries.
I watched and waited as they danced around each other, and her, and the crowd, for twenty-four minutes. I marveled at Carey's particular command of the room. She was the natural center of attention without doing…anything. She did not wear a bedazzled leotard, she did not wear lipstick, she did not dance, she did not perform a display in the usual sense of woman on display. All she did that night, other than walk around in worn-out blue jeans and a tank top, was talk to people and mix plaster. Ultimately, it was what would be done with the plaster that made the impression: The casts would become the highly detailed sculptures of corpses upon which she'd built her budding career.
Her first, a woman in a bikini with strangulation marks around her neck, HARD BODY (7 TIMES A DAY), won the Young Prize. The title of the work referred to the statistical number of women killed by a domestic partner per day in America, and every piece she had made since then featured what she called "working-class bodies" in various shades of disease and decay. It was that one-two combination—of her simple (almost simplistic) way of being, and the extended shadow of her morbid imagination—that went right up the nose and into the lungs, contaminating the crowd.
That night on Grand Street was the most informative night of my young life, thus far. Much of it was semiotic: Up until that show, even in my second year of art school, I possessed very little vocabulary for what being an artist looked like after 1960. I was only a sophomore, after all, and this was before everyone had a smartphone, before the internet was piped into your every living moment. I didn't know how the YBAs had been living or even what Warhol's Factory was. I think at the time I didn't actually know what Jean-Michel Basquiat looked like. I hadn't read the New York Times on more than three or four occasions, and I certainly didn't know to subscribe to Artforum or Interview or any of those arty, expensive magazines; I was just a kid, and I was a painter, my world limited to a lineage of painters. At nineteen, my entire frame of reference was essentially based in old photographs of Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell hanging in the East Village with the vast landscapes of their canvases, their hair set into big curls like I was doing with my own pale, rosy bob.
But beyond my lack of the most basic cultural and historical knowledge, much of my awe was relational. Pine City were three women and two men in a spiral of their own making, five people who were best friends, lovers, partners, equals. It was family and friendship and romance at once. I'd never seen anything like it, partially because I was from a town in Florida where men had pickup trucks and women, if they were lucky, had abortions, and because I was incredibly young—but also because Pine City was genuinely special, and the way they lived was rare.
Four out of five of them were living together (supposedly sleeping in a giant bed made of four other beds) in a triangle-shaped loft at the end of 44th Street in Long Island City. Rumor had it that Johnson Reuchtig, Tyler Savage's blue-chip gallery, would send a bike messenger every weekend with a silver briefcase full of drugs that Pine City consumed in earnest until it was empty. Then JR would deliver an entire shiva buffet from Barney Greengrass, which Pine City would eat before passing out, waking up, and starting the cycle anew. The only one who didn't sleep in the massive bed—Jack Wells—lived on a thirty-two-foot wooden sailboat docked mere steps away from the loft on the East River, and they would sail it around Manhattan shooting rubber bullets at skyscrapers, taking photographs as the glass walls rippled but did not break.
I was so young then, and very sheltered, not on purpose, not because someone was protecting me, but the opposite. I stood beneath, still, the shadows of impoverished white Southern swamp masculinity—bitter misogynies that stick to every particle of your consciousness, so that you don't know if it's possible to be anything other than a failure. You don't know if the sun will ever come out.
But they were the sun.
Months later, all of the body parts Carey cast that night would be painted in various stages of decay and buried, on public and private property, without permission, through the entirety of New York State, though I didn't know that at the time. When she returned and set her hand on top of mine, freeing me from the shrinking white dust with a light tap on each finger, someone took her picture. Though I felt the flash on my face, I wondered if I would show up in the image at all.
"Don't steal my fingerprints," I said to her—the joke I'd been working on for twenty-four minutes.
Carey looked at me. "I won't," she said, after a moment. "Hold on." She reached into the mold and rubbed them away, erasing the whorls of my fingertips one by one. "There. Now you can be nobody."
"I'm already nobody." I lowered my eyes, embarrassed.
She placed one plaster-dusted fingernail under my chin, tipping it up. Her eyes went to my hair and back again.
"No," she said. "You're a pearl." She withdrew her finger.
I blushed. "Thank you."
"You're an artist," she said. A statement, not a question.
"I paint," I admitted. "Well—I'm at the Academy. I want to be a painter."
"What are your paintings like? Like—really?"
"They want to be bigger. But we're not supposed to."
"You're exactly like me," she said. "You try to follow all the rules, but you don't want to."
"I guess," I agreed nervously.
"Hmm," she said. "I think you should let them. The work comes first, you know."
"Um—I'll try it." Nobody had ever given me permission to step outside the rules of the Academy.
"Can I tell you something else that I've learned?" she whispered, eyes on fire.
"Sure." I leaned in.
"These people"—she twirled that plaster-dusted fingernail ever so slightly to indicate the entire room—"these people will make not only your work, but you yourself into a commodity. They'll buy you and sell you. Let them. But make sure you always do it on your own terms."
Before I could ask her what she meant, the other four members of Pine City were looking at us—the rays of their eyes burned my skin—and Carey closed up.
"You can go," she pronounced somberly, like a nun at school, and I did.
As I headed for the door, dodging the elbows of a cluster of drunk bankers, their suit jackets off, ties loose, Tyler Savage wrapped an arm around Carey Logan's waist and held her one inch above the floor, like she was floating, and he whispered something. They were steps behind me, and when she laughed, this big, open laugh, I stopped and turned at the sound. They didn't notice me. She placed her hand on his cheek, and then—almost as if it was the first time, and maybe it was—they held each other against the wall and kissed so deeply that I knew I ought to look away.
I didn't think anyone would ever love me like that, or treat me with so much care.
Somehow, I got a ride the four blocks back to the bus stop in time, doubled on the handlebars of a stranger who kissed me! hard! before pedaling away without so much as an introduction. And though it wasn't the same as being kissed by someone like Tyler Savage or Carey Logan, I grinned the whole way back to the Academy.
That was when I decided I would move to New York.
* * *
Two years later, I packed up my last dorm room and got on that Chinatown bus one final time. I landed in Brooklyn, subletting a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend's roommate's room for a year, and slept in a plywood cave on a lofted bed, a set of single-file dollhouse steps leading to the cold, dirty floors. I fell in love right away with a guitarist named Ben who lived down the hall. He had the biggest eyes I'd ever seen, and gentle fingers, and he was in love with a girl called Kate who was much prettier than I was. I found a job in a metal bar and spent my first twelve months in New York drinking and chasing Ben while he chased Kate and then eventually this ended in the spring, with me sobbing in the then detritus-park at the end of South 3rd while Ben walked away, shaking his head and apologizing. Five minutes later—tears dripping off my chin as I stared out at the river mournfully—I was approached by two pale, bearded Hasidic guys in their big satin jackets. They asked if I liked to party. We wound up doing coke behind a curtain in the back room of a nearby dive bar, and they told me that God was ashamed of me for being impure, and I was so coked up that I cried again and told them they were probably right. I hadn't picked up a palette knife since arriving in New York, and I hadn't seen hide nor hair of Pine City, or any other real artists, and I'd lost myself. I was miserable and I truly thought that I'd ruined my life, that I had wasted the most precious opportunity I'd ever known, because when you are twenty-two every day feels like a year.
One night I followed one of Ben's friends to an ad hoc music venue in the city to see a sparsely attended folk concert. Cavernous and sticky with old beer, it was a ninth-floor walk-up somewhere off an alleyway in the Financial District, and I loved it immediately. The venue was full of art debris—blowtorches and canvases and weird, incomplete foam sculptures shoved against the wall to make room for the stage—so when I found out that the people who lived in the back were looking for a new roommate, I ran three blocks to the nearest ATM and took out all my money.
Seven hundred dollars in tens later, out of breath from the stairs, I introduced myself to Cady, Atticus, and Jonny, the sloe-eyed twenty-somethings on the lease, and told them I was a large-scale abstract painter looking for a live-work space. They shrugged their sloping shoulders, ambivalent—until I gave them the cash, at which point they hugged me, showed me my room—really, a lightly partitioned drywall area—and gave me a key to the front door.
"Jonny is leaving tomorrow for graduate school. We weren't gonna make rent and it was already three weeks late," Cady admitted, sheepish, blushing. "That's why we were hosting Victory and the Beautiful. Only—they only have ten fans, and we didn't feel right charging more than five bucks. Things were dire."
"You're our angel," Jonny said.
The next morning, I ditched the sublet, in a shitty way, if I'm being honest—I think I left a note on a paper towel and taped it to the fridge—and moved into that loft on Dutch Street in the Fulton district of Lower Manhattan. Cady scored me a job, as a hostess at an upscale West Village restaurant, and Atticus cleared out a ten-by-fifteen-foot space in the living room. He was on one side, making sculptures, and Cady was on the other, painting, too, differently from me. Back in a world of artists—and away from Ben, away from Kate, away from dive bars—I started to make work again. The moment I picked up my palette knife, it was like whoever had been sitting on my chest suddenly stood up. I could breathe.
I work primarily in oil, which has enough variations in tone, hardness, depth, and clarity to rival most spoken languages. It can be thick and weirdly inconsistent like an unpasteurized soft cheese; deliciously smooth and stable like a room-temperature buttercream frosting; or thin and weepy like a salad dressing. It can whip into a knot, pan into the ideal smear, beat into a creamy, airless gel. Stiff enough for peaks and valleys—yet smooths out cleaner and flatter than hot glass. Oil paint is needy: It must be paid attention to as it cures in the atmosphere, slowly, and it's hard to cheat. It lives in the world and follows a linear time of its own devising. Essentially: It is so much work that it makes everything else disappear.
The first time I used it, at a community arts class in the ninth grade, I dumped an entire, pudding-consistency cup of the palest teal, a half octave of opacity behind Tiffany blue, onto a ready-made canvas, then used a paper-thin metal knife to stretch it flat, into the flattest, densest rectangle, and then—the room around me fell away. I was hooked.
Jonah, the cute desk clerk at Pearl Paint on Canal Street who never smiled at anyone but me, whispered one afternoon that Pine City bought an abandoned hotel somewhere upstate. It was to be their private retreat, though he'd heard they might host a couple of artists the following year. Immediately I pictured receiving an invitation in the mail that said Welcome to Pine City. I told Jonah I was going to be there someday, and he rolled his eyes. Then I spent a thousand dollars on materials. He didn't roll his eyes at my wrinkled pile of money, rubber-banded from the restaurant. When I left he looked at me with something that was either pity or pride or a mixture of both.
Soon, I had my first show.
It was in Brooklyn at a shitty gallery in Bushwick when I was twenty-three, and I called it Ohne Titel, "untitled" in German, which is still embarrassing. Only two of my paintings sold. The other eight I donated to a homeless shelter. The gallery dropped me afterward, making the radically uncreative argument that they had no real way to sell a series of near-identical untitled paintings by a young no-name female painter; it was too difficult, especially as long as I insisted the work remain untitled and that the wall text include basically no information. It was like trying to sell a plain white t-shirt with no brand name for two hundred dollars. Did I know anyone famous, they asked, who could help me? Did I have any well-known friends? Or maybe a group show that made it look like I was a part of a trend…whatever it was, something had to be done about my "identity problem."
Anyone could sell plain untitled abstracts by a young female painter with an identity, they insisted. All I had to do was get one.
By contrast, Pine City, now crossing into their thirties, were becoming a reference point unto themselves. Their private retreat upstate had been photographed, celebrated, and fetishized, and their lifestyle was a romantic touchstone. At DIY venues without toilets or bars, people lined up around the block to see Jes's performances. Marlin's wheatpastes became sites of pilgrimage. Jack and Tyler's site-specific installations, always mounted illegally at midnight, were now left up for a week or two, instead of being taken down immediately.
- On Sale
- Jun 18, 2019
- Page Count
- 368 pages
- Hachette Book Group