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How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Livingby Karen Karbo
Synopses & Reviews
Georgia Oand#8217;Keeffe, the most famous woman artist of American modernism and a pioneer in abstract art, created a vision without precedent. She expressed the grandeur of her world in the Southwest, from the high desert mesas to the smallest flower, with fierce independence. And a separate world has risen up around her fame: from the photographic nudes of her by Alfred Stieglitz to the iconic images of her, years later, set in the stunning landscapes of New Mexico.
In this book, Nancy J. Scott draws on extensive sourcesand#151;including many of Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s lettersand#151;to offer a sensitive and incisive examination of her groundbreaking works, their evolution, and how their reception has been caught in conflicts between Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s inner self and public persona. Following the young artist as her path-breaking, abstract charcoal landscapes caught the attention of gallery impresario Stieglitz, Scott tells the story of their partnership, of Stieglitzand#8217;s nudes, and the development of Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s early reputation as a sexually inspired, Freudian-minded artist. Scott explores the independent expression that Oand#8217;Keeffe forged in opposition to the interpretations of her abstract work and the hybrid space that Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s works came to inhabit. Ultimately, she blended the abstract with the real in interpretations of flowers, bones, shells, rocks, and landscapes, which would become her hallmark subjects.
Unique to this biography is the inclusion of her lettersand#151;which have only recently been made available. They show that her words can be just as revelatory as her paintings, and they offer the intimate voice of an artist alive in an era of great artistic development. The result is a succinct yet comprehensive account of one of the most prolific and important artists of the twentieth century.and#160;
How Georgia Became OKeeffe delves into the long, extraordinary life of the renowned American painter, exploring a range of universal themes—from how to discover and nurture your individuality to what it means to be in a committed relationship while maintaining your independence, from finding your own style to developing the ability to take risks.
A fresh, revealing look at the artist who continues to inspire new generations of women.
Georgia Oand#8217;Keeffe (1887and#8211;1986), the most famous woman artist of American modernism in the 20th century and a pioneer in shaping abstract art, created a world without precedent. Oand#8217;Keeffe expressed the grandeur of her world, the high desert mesas and cliffs as much as the smallest flower, with fierce independence. A world has been created around her as well: from the photographic nude studies of her by Alfred Stieglitz to the photographs of Oand#8217;Keeffe in the desert of New Mexico taken in later years, the artistand#8217;s own image reflects intensity as well as independence.
In this book Nancy Scott examines Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s work, its evolution, and the conflicts of the artistand#8217;s inner self and public personality, using a broad range of sources. As a young artist, she dared to make charcoal landscapes of pure abstraction, and this venture brought her to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz, gallery impresario and the leader of photography as a fine art. Stieglitz, obsessed with his discovery of a and#8220;woman on paper,and#8221; photographed her in a startling sequence of nudes and compositions detailing neck, arms, and torso. Her reputation as a sexually inspired, Freudian-minded artist preceded the reception of her art in the gallery. Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s art, neither wholly abstract nor realist but a melding of realist interpretations of flowers, bones, shells, rocks, and the landscape, is structured with abstract design. She identified the power of landscape, discovered first in Texas and later in the desert of New Mexico, as a primary inspiration in art.
Her letters, exchanged with her mentor and later husband Alfred Stieglitz, long restricted by the terms of Oand#8217;Keeffeand#8217;s will, show that her words could be as revelatory as her painting. In this book her voice is heard in intimate revelations of the self, her growing love for Stieglitz, and the tumult of their long union as artists: his settled life between Lake George and New York stifled her need for an independent immersion in nature. Her reputation only continued to grow as she reached a great age, defining her role at the origins of the growth and development of American abstract art.
Most people associate Georgia OKeeffe with New Mexico, painted cow skulls, and her flower paintings. She was revered for so long—born in 1887, died at age ninety-eight in 1986—that we forget how young, restless, passionate, searching, striking, even fearful she once was—a dazzling, mysterious female force in bohemian New York City during its heyday.
In this distinctive book, Karen Karbo cracks open the OKeeffe icon in her characteristic style, making one of the greatest women painters in American history vital and relevant for yet another generation. She chronicles OKeeffes early life, her desire to be an artist, and the key moment when art became her form of self-expression. She also explores OKeeffes passionate love affair with master photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who took a series of 500 black-and-white photographs of OKeeffe during the early years of their marriage.
This is not a traditional biography, but rather a compelling, contemporary reassessment of the life of OKeeffe with an eye toward understanding what we can learn from her way of being in the world.
About the Author
Karen Karbo is the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel (skirt!) and How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “an exuberant celebration of a great original.” Her three novels were all named New York Times notable books, and The Stuff of Life, her memoir about her father, was a People Magazine Critics Pick and winner of the Oregon Book Award.
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