Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe by Dawn Tripp
To be Published: Feb 9, 2016
Based off actual letters between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Steiglitz, Georgia tells about the life and artistic pursuits of painter Georgia O’Keeffe and her breakthrough into the boys-only club of the art world in the 1920s-50s. The book goes into great detail about Georgia and her first lover then husband, photographer and art gallery owner Alfred Steiglitz, who really helped launch her art career. Will she be able to forge her own path in a world where everyone is trying to control her and her art? 4 stars.
I have been a bit obsessed with Georgia O’Keeffe ever since I did some research on her for an art program I was doing at work. So this book seemed the next logical step in getting to know more about her before committing to reading an in-depth biography. Overall, I enjoyed the book and Georgia’s insights on art and love. It was interesting to know the background of why and how she came to paint the things she did paint, especially as painting the enlarged flowers (the thing that made her the most famous) was kind of a casual idea. I thought it was a bit weird, especially given what I have read about her relationships with men outside of her marriage, that the author tried to paint Steiglitz as the womanizer and didn’t say much of anything about her dalliances. My biggest complaint about the book was that the ending really dragged.
I liked how the author added excerpts from real letters between O’Keeffe and Steiglitz to add to the story. You really got an insight into how Georgia felt about being an artist and her relationship with Steiglitz. I’m not 100% sure (unless it specifically says so) which is from a letter and what is the author’s original work, but the book does have some great quotes. In the beginning of the book, Steiglitz sends her some photos he has taken of her during the affair before their marriage, and she sees herself through his eyes, she has “that quizzical, almost feral expression in her eyes–a restless ambition fused with desire.” Steiglitz says this about art the first time she meets him when she was an art student in New York and it really stuck with her: “Art is life. Not reiterative. Not imitative, ever. It’s always new. Otherwise, it is not Art.” Or later when Georgia is frustrated with Steiglitz for how the critics view her and her work, and she tells him:
“I’m an artist, Stieglitz. All this nonsense about the eternal feminine and essential woman and cleaving and unbosoming. This both they smear on my work. It rips away the value of what I’ve tried to do. You tell me not to let talk like this interfere with my work. Well, it does interfere. It will. How can it not? You have to set them straight.”
I think that’s how most professional women feel about their work. We don’t want to be viewed as the feminine version, but as our own version. It is fascinating to see how she viewed herself as an artist because she was so revolutionary. She was an artist at a time where there were hardly any other female artists, and became hugely famous, even after changing her style so much. I also liked how the author described Georgia’s decision to move to New Mexico, that it was “curious, how something as inarguable and simple as wide-open space can rearrange me back into myself.” That’s kind of how I feel about living in the Southwest. Although I miss seasons and trees, there is something that really draws you in about the barren openness and rugged beauty of the Southwest.