Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE      1887 - 1986

love makes all things easy
I put energy into my painting, I put my being into my 
painting, so that whatever people perceived was
my energy as well as what they saw visually.
Georgia in New Mexico

A major figure in American art since the 1920s, she is chiefly known for paintings of flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones and landscapes, in which she synthesized abstraction and representation.
Ram's Head, White Hollyhock  Hills

She played a central role in bringing an American art style to Europe at a time when the majority of influence flowed in the opposite direction.

She found artistic inspiration, particularly in New Mexico, where she settled late in life

.
PETER As a child on your parents' farm in Wisconsin flowers and rocks became very important in your painting.
O'KEEFE As I talked to my friends of the energy coming out of a rock or plant, everybody thought I was crazy.  So I thought, "Let me show them what I see."
PETER You often transformed natural subjects into powerful abstract images.  Was this approach to art spontaneous, or did you learn it from others?
O'KEEFE I didn't mimic anyone.  I simply took the energy and what it was trying to say to me.  If you look at some of my abstracts, the geometries were what people today call feng shui
PETER The photograper, Alfred Stieglitz exhibited ten of your drawings.  You fell in love and started modeling for him.  His wife found out, they divorced, and later you married him.  Was it a good marriage?
O'KEEFE It was a very insightful one, both artistically and romantically.   My expectations had been based on romance novels.  The reality was different.
PETER Alfred took 300 photographs of you, and in 1921 the Anderson Galleries displayed some showing you in the nude.  How were they received?
O'KEEFE (LAUGHS)   That was a period when the human form could be hinted at, but could not be exhibited au naturel.   They were not received very well, except by the art community.
PETER Your art took New York by storm, and in 1928 your calla lily paintings sold for the largest sum ever paid to a living American artist.
O'KEEFE I put my being into my painting, so that whatever people perceived was my energy as well as what they saw visually.  It was the "energetic bounce" that drew people to my pictures.
PETER After your husband's death, you restored an abandoned adobe hacienda in New Mexico.  Was that a true homecoming for you?
O'KEEFE It was like returning to the womb.  There were no distractions, no silly society life.  It was the period in my life when I became myself.  New Mexico was where my soul thrived, where feelings inside me were ignited by the air, by the sand, by the wind, by everything that breathed.
PETER In the 1970s your eyesight started to fail; you suffered from macular degeneration and had to stop painting for good.  What did illness teach you?
O'KEEFE It taught me to be more connected with energy, the same thing I began to realize was in my paintings.  It was a time for retrospection, when I went back and re-lived within my mind the paintings of my life.  I was still able to teach people the feel of colour, and depth, and energy; without being distracted by wanting to jump in and change what they were creating.
PETER Tell us about your other lifetimes.
O'KEEFE Some of them were quite ordinary - a milkmaid when I raised a brood of chickens and kids.  I was a gypsy wandering throughout eastern Europe.  I danced for coins at different points (and helped myself to coins in different places).  I went back to the British Isles when the Celts were there, when I was very connected to the energies of the Earth.  There is some very subtle symbolism in my paintings which came through.  I have even been on different planets.
PETER In 1973, a potter called Juan Hamilton came to the door.  You once said, "He came at just the moment I needed him."  Had you asked the Universe for help?
O'KEEFE Indirectly.  I was in a period of despair when nothing seemed to be working right and I simply said, "What next?"  Then there was a knock at the door!  Juan saw me as another soul, not as somebody he could use, learn from, or even steal from.  It was soul-to-soul sharing, both the spiritual and physical experience.
PETER He taught you pottery?
O'KEEFE He taught me a feel of what the Earth is.  I could feel its energy and sense the connection that exists between the physical human being and the living Mother Earth.
PETER Once you said, "When I think of death, I only regret that I will not be able to see this beautiful country anymore - unless the Indians are right and my spirit will walk here after I'm gone."  Are the Indians right?
O'KEEFE Without a doubt!  A soul has the ability to recall in intimate detail the experiences of each lifetime, but also the ability to return and relive the desired moments.  Yes, I can walk upon the planet and I can feel it, not physically but energetically.

Toni comments: It felt as if I were waltzing.  There was rhythm and energy to Georgia - I felt alive and able to feel her artistry in everything.


Talking with Twentieth Century Women
The foregoing are excerpts from Talking with Twentieth Century Women.
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