Friday, January 31, 2014

On the Edit Floor --- Day 3/20

Walk: de Young, Mindful Body
Distance: 2 miles and teach yoga class

As mentioned in CIWT a few days ago, Thursday was the first docent lecture on Georgia O'Keefe's early Lake George years with Alfred Stieglitz when they spent summers with his extended family at the Stieglitz summer 'cottage.'  The years were approximately 1918 to 1930, and they span both the development of O'Keefe's modernist style and subject matter as well as the rise and flattening of her love affair and later marriage to Stieglitz.

Much is known and written about both the love affair and the art, but Ciwt has always wondered how O'Keefe could have been so overtaken by Stieglitz or what impetus could have been strong enough for O'Keefe to take herself to New Mexico and then essentially spend her life there with occasional trips to New York.

Much is made of the love story, the 300 pictures he took of her and hung on his walls at his famous and powerful Gallery 291, the extramarital living together, her instant rise to financial success.  But nothing written really explores his Svengali power over her personally and career-wise. Or her - I would say pretty innocent - 'submission' to his dazzling power and personality.  Nor has Ciwt seen any deep examination of the dark aspects of their love story: her feeling of exclusion and entrapment by his huge, boisterous family at Lake George, his decision against providing her with the child she strongly wished to have.  And, Ciwt has never read about his philandering or about his most flagrant affair with a young woman, Dorothy Norman, approximately seven years into his life with O'Keefe.

These little things came out in the course of the lecture on O'Keefe's art, sunk in silently and literally woke Ciwt up with a nightmare.  Stieglitz quite literally replaced O'Keefe to her face - and apparently expected her to stay with him.  He brought the young Dorothy Norman into his gallery as an assistant and photographed her in the exact same poses he created for O'Keefe.  It must have been so painful for O'Keefe and was the (largely unspoken - maybe because he continued to control the image) reason she went to New Mexico.  

So much of what is known about both O'Keefe and Stieglitz is image.  Just image.  Sometimes the image is all and speaks volumes- both were supremely talented in their art, he in his photography and she in her paintings and drawings.  But - as with everyone - there is a shadow to each person and their relationship, and, in a way, that has been largely erased, painted over, cropped out.

Georgia O'Keefe by Alfred Stieglitz    Dorothy Norman by Alfred Stieglitz

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