We kicked off the fall Art in Focus series in Southampton this past Tuesday with a murder mystery. What if you took one of the most iconic accidents in Long Island history and wove it into a larger plot – one of murder, secrets, and modern art?
That’s the premise of Helen Harrison’s latest novel, An Accidental Corpse from Dunemere Press. Harrison is the director of the Pollock Krasner House and Study Center and as such has a deep knowledge of the world of 20th-century art and the East End of Long Island. She’s been mining that knowledge for a series of mysteries. The first, An Exquisite Corpse, set to be re-released next year, was set in Surrealist art circles in the New York of the 1940s.
An Accidental Corpse centers around the events of August 11, 1956. That was the day that Jackson Pollock and Edith Metzger died in an automobile accident on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton. Harrison interposes a twist – one of them was already dead – and the resulting investigation involves many prominent names active in the East End art scene of the time.
In her talk on Tuesday, Harrison shone a light on her process and how she used reference sources (like the Long Island Collection at the East Hampton Public Library) to provide verisimilitude to her account: everything from the Long Island Railroad timetable to the look and feel of the Sea Spray Inn.
We thank Helen for her time and also to the Pollock Krasner House and Study Center, co-sponsors of the Art in Focus series. Our next talk will be Tuesday, September 25th. Please join us as author Mary Gabriel discusses her book Ninth Street Women and its portraits of five women artists who challenged the male-dominated art world of the 1950s.