6 years ago by
Can I just say, you are such a badass.
I went to see the exhibition on your life at the Brooklyn Museum last weekend and, beyond your art, I was so blown away by the persona and brand you created around yourself. The thought that went into all of your aesthetic decisions from such a young age and have endured through your death were so smart. Everything, from your clothes that you made (that look like the inspiration for The Row), to the way you chose to have yourself photographed always cloaked in black created such an image.
There was a section of the exhibition called “celebrity” that included photos taken of you by everyone to your late love Alfred Stieglitz to Andy Warhol and Bruce Weber. I was so impressed by the seemingly obvious decisions you made to maintain your own image, so much so that people were clamoring to discover exactly who you were. If this persona was carefully calculated or the most authentic version of yourself is something we’ll never know, but I applaud you for always being in control of how you were perceived. And for creating beautiful art and an inspiring life in the meantime.
I went and saw her home & studio in Abiquiu, NM last fall and was blown away by all the same things. I had always loved her but being in her home I just couldn’t get over her and still haven’t. Such an inspiring artist and WOMAN. I wish I could see the exhibit but I am southern cali. C’est la vie. I heart this letter a lot. (sigh)
There’s a photo of her and Orwell Cox (if I remember his name… it’s dated 1937) on the wall in my favourite room at the inn we stay at when we ski. He’s looking down and she’s got this captivating smile (smugly satisfied in a nice way, knowing and experienced) as though she just made him blush and it was either too easy or very difficult.
I am so jealous that I can’t get to this exhibit. My son, his girlfriend and her family went to see it this past weekend too. It sounds amazing. Fashion and art, what could be better?
Jealousy aside, I’m also grateful for this post — we all need to support the arts these days and always. And there’s no better way to practice a bit of self care than losing yourself in art.
I wish you could make it over too–it really is so special! That said, the book from the exhibition is really good, I’d highly recommend it!
Just like Janelle, Abiquiu is one of my best travel memory, such a peaceful place. Life at his purest, simple and rich at the same time.
Georgia O’Keefe was less about brand than about privacy, independence, and total devotion to her art.
O’Keeffe was an artist, first and foremost. She broke new ground, and remained true to herself and her vision, her entire life. It wasn’t about “branding.”
Emily, you might want to read her letters – to get a deeper sense of what motivated and inspired this remarkable human…
Concur with Anna, Dana. ‘Branding’ didn’t exist, and her mode of dress had nothing to do with any sort of ‘fashion statement’. All that O’Keeffe did went against societal norms of who she was expected to be as a woman, an artist, a partner. To describe her in such terms as a ‘badass’, ‘celebrity’, etc, is a little frustrating. Downplays her achievements into a sound byte for social media, although that, I am sure, is not the intent. “If this persona was carefully calculated or the most authentic version of yourself” … It was both. It was exactly who she was, the most authentic version OF self, refined to that one pure expression of the artist and woman combined – and something that can’t be purchased at The Row.