The Dissemblers by Liza Campbell
The Dissemblers is a story about creativity, betrayal, art, crime, and jealousy. Ivy Wilkes has recently graduated from art school and has moved to New Mexico to work in the Georgie O’Keeffee Museum. She works as a cashier, but hopes being close to where O’Keeffe created her work will inspire her to do the same. Ivy lives below a couple of musicians, Jake and Maya. When not playing with the orchestra, Jake works as a guard at the museum. Ivy eventually becomes romantically involved with Omar, café owner and Jake’s brother.
As an artist, Ivy is remarkably perceptive. She narrates the story with an acute awareness, describing the act of creation, acts of intimacy, and subtle shifts in the weather. Unfortunately, this heightened observational talent makes her blind to the consequences of art fraud. Through the persuasions and machinations of Maya and some unseen associates, Ivy gets drawn slowly into the criminal element. The child of an atheist theologian and a geology professor, Ivy views things through the twin lenses of artistic immediacy and academic disinterest. The intellect wars with gut instinct in how far she is willing to go with her O’Keeffe forgeries. The fine line between painting imitations as artistic exercise and passing fakes off for profit becomes blurred. When Ivy begins cheating on Omar by seeing Jake, the blurred lines become blurrier. Then there is the mysterious stranger who keeps asking Ivy suspicious questions. Through the haze of adultery and fraud, Ivy is forced to make some tough decisions to save herself. However, does she have the conviction to follow through?
The Dissemblers works as an apprentice effort by Liza Campbell. While the narrative preserves a tautness and brevity befitting a thriller, yet still maintaining an internal serenity demanded by works that contemplate art and the creative process. Ivy’s parentage (daughter of a theologian and geologist) seems a little too on-point when it comes to relocating in New Mexico, a place renown for its geological wonders and rich Catholic history. Her tendency to say, “I don’t believe in God, but …” became repetitious. A moral prop that became a narrative prop. The prose seemed a bit on the bland side. But let me reiterate, this is an apprentice effort. Ms. Campbell, like Liza, has real talent and will be a force to reckon with once she harnesses the full power of her creative voice. The first step towards innovation is imitation. The Dissemblers illustrates this.