Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keefe by Dawn Tripp
Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keefe (2016) is set in America from 1915 to 1945. This is not a biography of artist Georgia Totto O’Keefe (1957-1986). Instead, it is a novel, a re-imagination based on real events and letters. It is inspired by O’Keefe’s dream of becoming an independent artist, and her other love – her love affair with photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
At 27 years of age in 1915, living in Texas, art teacher Georgia O’Keefe writes to the famous photographer and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz. He responds that he wants to exhibit her charcoal abstractions, because he said, he had faith in her and her artwork. They correspond through letters – she writes things she could never say to anyone else.
Not able to attend the exhibition in 1917, Georgia travels to New York two days after the end of the exhibition, unannounced. In New York, he photographs her – clothed and naked – and exhibits them (with her head cropped out) to great controversy.
Alfred is married with a teenage daughter. Georgia’s sister Claudia doesn’t like the idea of Georgia becoming Alfred’s muse and protégé. Alfred encourages Georgia to paint with oils.
They fall in love. She is 29 years old and he is 53.
Alfred encourages Georgia to paint with oils, and they keep their love alive through letter-writing. All the while, Georgia O’Keefe paints flowers – bold, vivid, magical, sensual, flowers. The tempestuous affair continues until 1945, when he is 81.
‘I cry until I am an ocean … I used to think the letters told the story of our lives together, the truth of that strange beautiful love. But the letters were never who we were. They were who we wanted to be.’
In 1979, at the age of 91, Georgia O’Keefe buys a house in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where she lives until her death in 1986. She paints landscapes and … flowers.
This novel is Georgia O’Keefe’s re-imagined life, one of personal and artistic sacrifices, courage, and talent.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls; pictures – Alfred Stieglitz, 1918, Black and white portrait photograph of Georgia O’Keefe; Red Canna by Georgia O’Keefe, 1915, and Poppies (date unknown)
MARTINA NICOLLS – MartinaNicollsWebsite