Archive for July 12th, 2011

When I was starting out as an artist I didn’t think of myself as a great fan of Georgia O’Keefe but my friends must have thought I was, because for my birthday I once got the same Georgia O’Keefe book from two different people.  Two copies of the same book, the large format one with the skull and flowers on the cover.  I have always loved her early work, the sparse watercolors she did in Texas, for example.  But the paintings have never grabbed me much.

Recently I put the Bob Balaban movie about her, “Georgia O’Keefe,” 2009, on my Netflix queue, just out of curiosity and then postponed watching it for days.  Turns out, it’s worth watching.  In fact, I watched some scenes over and over, especially her first meeting with Stieglitz at his gallery where he tells her that she doesn’t even know how good her work is.  Joan Allen portrays her as a genteel, refined woman  who fearlessly defines her life and flaunts conventions with calm stubbornness.  Stieglitz is reduced to fidgetiness when she speaks as an adult in command of her senses.  Jeremy Irons makes this complex art lover/art dealer sympathetic.  Not only is the psychology of these two ornery people made credible by superb acting, but the “artspeak” is insightful.  Most of all, I loved the fact that the director allowed the camera to linger for the actual painting scenes.  We see O’Keefe , not so much engaging the brushes and the paint tubes, but… looking.  Extraordinary.  Showing an actor in the act of looking does not advance the plot, does not define conflict, does not produce quotable dialogue, is not sexy or car-crash noisy.  She looks.  She looks at the mountains.  She looks, quietly, without drama.

It’s about looking, about seeing.

(Above, my studies in charcoal on 11 x 17 smooth paper.)

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.





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