This week was a little crazy between spring break and trying to keep up with my research but I made it!
I may have bit off more than I can chew this month by trying to read a 400 page biography of Georgia O'Keeffe. To sum up about 50 pages: Georgia spent about 10 years teaching in various places (Texas, Virginia, South Carolina) and then going back/forth to NYC to study art. She couldn't afford to do art school full time and was constantly looking for opportunities that would allow her to paint on the side. She was really searching for her way and her style. She has two series from this time period: watercolor abstracted landscapes from her time in Texas and charcoal abstractions from her time in Columbia, SC. The charcoal ones caught the eye of Stieglitz who displayed them in his gallery without her knowledge or permission.
1916-1917: Georgia took a teaching job at West Texas Normal College in Canyon TX. Her younger sister Claudie stated with her and attended school there. Georgia worked in watercolor painting landscapes and abstractions. In April 1917 Stieglitz opened her first solo show.
That winter Georgia turned 30, her sister left to student teach, and the US had declared war on Germany. For months Georgia lost the desire to paint.
Through brief encounters and lengthy letters, Georgia got to know Alfred as a profoundly fascinating, personally appealing man. One friend observed that his shapely head had two looks--a jagged one due to a nose with a broken ridge, and one in which the planes of his face were smooth.
In 1921, he described himself simply: "I was born in Hoboken. I am an American. Photography is my passion. The search for truth is my obsession." [This reminds me of a twitter/Instagram bio!]
Stieglitz left his wife of 24 years, Georgia quit her teaching job in Texas. They lived together in NYC and summered at Alfred's family's estate on Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains.
There Georgia had long stretches of time to paint, time to work in oils. They usually arrived weeks before the rest of the family. Georgia wrote in a letter:
For several years Georgia and Alfred spent winters in NYC and summers at Lake George. Georgia painted skyscrapers in the city and barns in the country.
She liked to emphasize the point that she had not been to Europe and was uninterested in foreign masters like Cezanne. She proudly wore a badge of Americanness.
I hadn't seen either series and found them pretty fascinating since I usually think of skulls, flowers, and abstracted landscapes when I think of Georgia. Also here she took what most would see as a weakness--never traveled to Europe or studied with European artists-- and turned it into a strength--to forge a new path as an American artist.
After 6 years of resistance Stieglitz's wife began divorce proceedings. As soon as the divorce was final, he insisted that Georgia marry him. She reasoned that they lived together all this time, why bother to marry now?
Georgia reluctantly agreed and they married on December 11, 1924. Georgia was 37 and Alfred was almost 61. When the couple recited their vows, no wedding rings were exchanged, and Georgia omitted the words love, honor, and obey.
At one time, she threatened to quit painting if Freudian interpretations continued to be made. In the 40's she admitted that this kind of talk inhibited her from painting quite as many giant flowers as she might have throughout the years.
She also got exasperated with those who harped on the exaggerated size of the flowers. Once when asked why so large she answered,
Today's piece is inspired by Georgia's Ladder to the Moon. Georgia often used a handmade ladder to climb to the roof of her Ghost Ranch house.