Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Reflecting on Painter Georgia O'Keeffe

Catherine Creek II by Donna Van Tuyl

Today as I was painting, I thought about Georgia O'Keeffe and a story that was written about her in one of my favorite books, The White Album by Joan Didion. She writes about many things, but my favorite is about Georgia O'Keeffe. Here is something that she wrote, and I read, back in the 70's.

I recall an August afternoon in Chicago in 1973 when I took my daughter, then seven, to see what Georgia O'Keeffe had done with where she had been. One of the vast O'Keeffe "Sky Above Clouds" canvases floated over the back stairs in the Chicago Art Institute that day, dominating what seemed to be several stories of empty light, and my daughter looked at it once, ran to the landing, and kept on looking. "Who drew it," she whispered after a while. I told her. "I need to talk to her," she said finally.

It seems to me that it would be very pleasing to have someone respond to my work as this seven year old responded to Georgia O'Keeffe’s. Basically artists need to sell to keep going, however, the response that people have to a painting is truly a reward. Simple reactions from the heart are meaningful to me. I don’t always know when I have succeeded, but when my husband walks in the door, looks at my days work and says, “WOW,” I know I have something.

Ms. Didion also wrote the following about Georgia:

In Texas there was only the horizon she craved. In Texas she had her sister Claudia with her for a while, and in the late afternoons they would walk away from town and toward the horizon and watch the evening star come out. "That evening star fascinated me," she wrote. "It was in some way very exciting to me. My sister had a gun, and as we walked she would throw bottles into the air and shoot as many as she could before they hit the ground. I had nothing but to walk into nowhere and the wide sunset space with the star. Ten watercolors were made from that star." In a way one's interest is compelled as much by the sister Claudia with the gun as by the painter Georgia with the star, but only the painter left us this shining record.

No comments: