O'Keeffe's personal mystique is as intriguing and enduring as her bold, brilliant canvasses. Here is the first full account of her exceptional life, from her girlhood and early days as a controversial art teacher to her discovery by the pioneering photographer of the New York avant-garde, Alfred Stieglitz, to her seclusion in the New Mexico desert, where she lived until her death.
And here is the story of a great romance between the extraordinary painter and her much older mentor, lover, and husband, Alfred Stieglitz.
Renowned for her fierce independence, iron determination, and unique artistic vision, Georgia O'Keeffe is a 20th century legend. Her dazzling career spans virtually the entire history of modern art in America.
©1980 Laurie Lisle; (P)1995 Blackstone Audiobooks
"This O'Keeffe will shock as much as amuse, chill as much as inspire." (Christian Science Monitor)
Few biographies have the ability to reveal a subject without being either overly reverent or overly critical. This book manages to balance strengths and flaws of character in an absorbing way. At times one can admire O'Keefe, at other times decide that one does not like her at all, yet at no point does one feel like putting the book down. On the contrary, I actually felt like not reading the last chapter simply because it meant the book would draw to a close, and I was left wanting to remain in Georgia's world.
I liked the reader. She is clear and has a little of Georgia's own 'matter of factness' in her reading style that I thought fitted the subject well. She had good material to work with, however, as the author structured the account in a thoughtful way that gave appropriate balance to the various elements of Georgia's life from New York and Stieglitz, to the West and her independence.
The only thing lacking, if it is indeed a lack, is the discretion used in accounts of Georgia's male friends. I cannot help but feel that Georgia would herself approve of leaving some things unsaid, but there were times when I felt that peculiar American prudery that seems to sanitize iconic figures in matters intimate. Maybe there was nothing to sanitize in this case, but I was left wondering in several places what the real truth might be, and the author at such places has neither speculated, nor admitted that there might be something to speculate on. Perhaps this is all a result of Georgia's active manipulation of her own legend, for it does appear that she liked to be in control as much as she could.
Overall a highly recommendable biography of one of the 20th century's most interesting artist's, one who was prepared to do her own thing no matter what might happen. It is a mark of a good book that one can, at the same time, dislike the main character, admire her, and love the way it all unfolds.
I appreciated getting to know much more about this artist in this well-written biography, but I felt at several points that I would have done much better by reading it rather than listening to it. The biographer's method of organizing material thematically meant a lot of skipping around on the timeline, and not having an easy way to review past material I was often lost in terms of cause and effect. This was also true of trying to remember all the people who were named and their relationships to O'Keeffe. (I recommend that those who wish to enjoy this book in audible format plan to do so in a very limited timeframe so as to retain as much information as possible from one listening session to the next.) A more difficult challege was in understanding nuances of the narration. I was often stymied by a frequent change in tone on the part of the narrator which seemed to me to indicate a direct quotation from a person being discussed, but not having the print in front of me to confirm, I struggled with the potential differences in meaning. That said, I generally appreciated the narrator's portrayal of the artist.
Straightforward summary of a long and amazingly focused life. Simple and clear style and performance, befitting the subject.
The book was interesting if you are an admirer of the artist. It was a bit dry at times and the first half hour about her childhood should have been done in 5 minutes. the narrator was also OK; nothing spectacular.
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