When the economy sours, news anchors talk of housing and manufacturing, of hedge funds and barrels of oil. They generally don’t discuss the lives of artists, and how their careers are crushed into a dull oblivion. If artists survive the fiscal and emotional shakedown, they steady themselves as adjuncts in the Midwest, they design for architectural firms. They take corporate commissions and they sit on city planning boards. They might show again, but this time in coffee shops or farmers’ markets. Artists fade, but they don’t disappear. Not the way Ford Beckman disappeared, at least. Beckman enjoyed heights few artists attain, and then no one in the art world could find him. When Beckman’s name surfaced at showings, it was met with shoulder shrugs. Dealers scanned floors, looking for Beckman’s trademark velvet slippers, which he wore to exhibitions. They’d heard about financial issues, but they knew him as a man of resources. Where, they wondered, was Ford Beckman? Beckman, now fifty-six, has been hiding in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where, until recently, he has been serving donuts for seven dollars an hour. A look into his eyes will tell you what you already know: there isn’t a more punishing zero than the sugary naught of a Krispy Kreme Hot Original Glazed. And yet Beckman is emerging, and doing so in one of the worst economic climates of our times. It’s a move that he feels particularly prepared to undertake.
more from Michael Paul Mason at The Believer here.