Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living

There are many, many books on the life and work of Georgia O'Keeffe - so many in fact that there are multiple pages of listings on Amazon.... Her visionary brilliance as an artist, her fierce independence as a woman, and her turbulent relationship with Alfred Steiglitz give her a mysterious aura that fascinates us all. It is almost a wonder that there is anything left to write about her. And yet, this did not faze Karen Karbo when she decided to put her own spin on the life of this artistic legend. 

Karen Karbo is the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel and How to Hepburn. She has a unique gift for biography, crafting a narrative that both delights and amuses the reader, as well as mining that person's life for nuggets of inspiration and life lessons. (Read my January 2010 interview with her here). When Karen wrote to me about her new book, I knew that I had to put down my scholarly journals and get this book, especially since Georgia O'Keeffe's flowers were a huge source of inspiration in my earliest painting attempts. Not yet available in Canada, I ordered How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living on Amazon and it has been my company in the wee hours of the morning during my latest bout of insomnia. 

Although I am not yet finished the book, I've read enough to know that this is another gem. Karen has a unique voice and is both frank and funny in her analysis of the realities of Georgia's life. One passage that encapsulates Karbo's style of writing is this analysis of Georgia's defiance of conventional standards of feminine beauty:

"With her fabulous rawboned frame, straggly brows, and schoolmarm's bun, her black vestments, man's shoes, and odd assortment of hats and turbans, O'Keeffe was out there. There was no one like her, then or ever. A few months before she left her teaching post in Canyon, when someone mustered up the nerve to timidly ask her why she wore her hair that way, O'Keeffe said, "Because I like it." Freeing herself from the endless demands of looking like other women released her into a parallel, and freer, universe. After people adjusted to her curious look, they accepted it and expected nothing else." (pg 13)

This is a book to add to your Christmas wish list!

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