7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2012
The title for this review is taken from one of O'Keefe's paintings, of a huge skull with antlers above a tiny mountain. It seems to encapsulate for me some of the enduring tensions of O'Keefe's work, between the distant and the already-known. Looking through her paintings, which are amazing, I noticed that there was a rigid distinction between the organic and the straight-edged man-made cities (Shelton with Sunspots is one of the best New York paintings ever). However, with Ranchos Church (1929), the organic and the man-made come together. This is an adobe, hand-made church, and O'Keefe paints it with the same attention as her earlier flower paintings, with their many shades and shadows.
Reading this book also made me aware of the mythology of O'Keefe as parallel to the mythology of America itself. O'Keefe, as someone once sang, lived in splendid isolation, but her paintings spoke to enduring American themes. (Her many letters also show that she wasn't suffering too much from isolation in that she was writing some of the best minds of her or any generation). I'm not being hagiographic here, as those who continue to read this will see. There is a reimagining of the Southwest landscape that takes out Native Americans and makes the landscape itself stand for those things that formerly had referred to Native Americans - tradition, ancient wisdom, etc. I recently saw an old newsreel - from the 1920s - about the Indian Detour, which the railroad was promoting, going through Taos and New Mexico more generally and emphasizing the Pueblo Indians. So New Mexico wasn't as completely undiscovered as the story of O'Keefe usually asserts.
O'Keefe didn't paint people, so this wasn't an exclusion from her part, per se, but I suspect that the massive impact O'Keefe has had on the modern American vision of the Southwest has something to do with this. Go to Santa Fe and you will see that in many ways her vision has trumped all others. In all the focus on O'Keefe as a woman, not enough attention has been paid to her as an American.
In any case, her letters show her to be open to great inspiration, thin-skinned to criticism, and in search of something true. It's interesting to see her relationship with Stieglitz progress over time, from hero-worship to weariness to a new balance after she started going away to New Mexico for part of each year. In a way, she has slain the dragon of obligation, which had earlier threatened to swallow up her entire relationship with Stieglitz. It's telling that she also refers to him as Stieglitz in her letters up until the point where she had a breakdown and renegotiated her life so that part of it would be in New Mexico away from Alfred (or A., the other way she starts to refer to him). After his death, he again becomes Stieglitz in her letters.
The plates followed by the letters and a chronology and bibliography provide an excellent, primary-source introduction to O'Keefe.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2013
I am a huge Georgia O'Keefe fan. I already have two other large books with color plates of her work. This one has mostly pictures that are not contained in the other two. The quality of the color plates is okay. Could be better, but not too bad.