Something deep in my bones is thoroughly satisfied when I stand in front of a Georgia O'Keeffe painting. As a rebellious and often misbehaving adolescent, I was periodically on the verge of being removed from various classes or even, sent home. One day my high school art teacher, Mr. Sams, sat me down in front of and facing, his file cabinet. "Open the bottom drawer, Paine."
Within that drawer were fat manila folders stuffed with images of various artists from antiquity through modern. It is probable that they were in alphabetical order, or perhaps arranged in a chronological order, a discernment lost on me at the time. I flipped through them quickly, irreverently at first and then more carefully. At one particular folder I stopped altogether, stunned by images of flowers, desert mountains, bones and intense blue.
From that day forward I walked into the sanctuary of the art room. I went directly to Mr. Sams desk, sat in his chair, pulled out the drawer, and I know now... meditated on the images of Georgia O'Keeffe. Mr. Sams did not put names on the folders, he honored his students the freedom of absorbing the images. It wasn't until I asked him, that I discovered the name of this artist.
Georgia O'Keeffe taught me about aesthetic, composition, color, form, hue, line. She taught integrity and focus. She taught the ancient lessons of immersing in one's passion, of following one's bliss, to continue on without the "permission" of status-quo or academic interpretation.
Which makes me giggle! How many of us could or would (and I may add... DO!) carry on, guided by whatever guides us, guided by heart,mind and soul to do what we need to do: allow Spirit full freedom to express through and as us?
I picked up the book Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams, Natural Affinities, this morning and dipped into Barbara Buhler Lynes' essay, "Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams: Subjects of Self."
Pardon me for saying it is not a remarkable essay. Maybe I was grumpy. I observed that there was too much space devoted to how O'Keeffe owes her success to Stieglitz, that O'Keeffe never mentions the "fact" that he set her up to be successful, and financially independent so that she could devote the rest of her life to her artwork. Do we deduce from this that she was not grateful, and therefore.... who knows? My opinion is that Stieglitz used his artists for his own gain, consciously or no; why is it so insulting that Georgia O'Keeffe went on to ignore him?
In my reading of the essay I do not find mention of the pain caused by Stieglitz's infidelities. I do not notice mention of Ansel Adams infidelities, in fact, no one has linked Adams's sexuality or even gender, to his landscapes. Seriously, this takes the apples & oranges adage to new heights.
And one last thing, here is a quote from Ms. Buhler Lynes, a final blow in describing a photograph from O'Keeffe's autobiography, "the single photograph of her... that is related to the text..." (ouch!) "appears across from words describing her late-life interest in learning to work with clay. What is not mentioned, however, is what she wanted kept secret at the time: that she had turned to this medium because, by the early 1970's, she was suffering from macular degeneration, which had compromised her vision and made it impossible for her to paint without assistance. This photograph... shows her in the pottery studio of her Ghost Ranch house, handling a clay pot, rather like a wizened member of a monastic order handling a religious relic."
Now I would be seriously embarrassed if I had written that paragraph.
Perhaps Ms. Buhler Lynes has never handled clay, or paint, or brushes. Perhaps she has never struggled with what lies ahead as one's body ages. Perhaps she has yet to investigate what we mean when we regard another as "famous" that we then have a patent claim on their work, their lives, their opinions of their lives.
My opinion is that a life, a person's body of work, is like an onion. My life, my sex, my work, my everything-that-makes-me, Me... is like an onion. And I peel and peel and peel, every day.
Thanks for hanging out with me!