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

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Overview

A fresh, revealing look at the artist who continues to inspire new generations of women

 

Most people associate Georgia O?Keeffe with New Mexico, painted cow skulls, and her ?vagina? flower paintings. She was revered for so long?born in 1887, died at age ninety-eight in 1986?that we forget how young, restless, passionate, searching, striking, even fearful she once was?a dazzling, mysterious female force in bohemian New York City during its...

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

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Overview

A fresh, revealing look at the artist who continues to inspire new generations of women

 

Most people associate Georgia O’Keeffe with New Mexico, painted cow skulls, and her “vagina” flower paintings. She was revered for so long—born in 1887, died at age ninety-eight in 1986—that we forget how young, restless, passionate, searching, striking, even fearful she once was—a dazzling, mysterious female force in bohemian New York City during its heyday.

 

In this distinctive book, Karen Karbo cracks open the O’Keeffe icon in her characteristic style, making one of the greatest women painters in American history vital and relevant for yet another generation. She chronicles O’Keeffe’s early life, her desire to be an artist, and the key moment when art became her form of self-expression. She also explores O’Keeffe’s passionate love affair with master photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who took a series of 500 black-and-white photographs of O’Keeffe during the early years of their marriage.

 

How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living delves into the long, extraordinary life of the renowned American painter, exploring a range of universal themes—from how to discover and nurture your individuality to what it means to be in a committed relationship while maintaining your independence, from finding your own style to developing the ability to take risks. Each chapter is built around an aspect of living that concerns women today of all ages: how to find your own path; work with passion and conviction; express yourself; be in a relationship without sacrificing your sense of self; and do it all with an effortless, unique style.

 

As with Karbo’s previous books, How Georgia Became O'Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living is not a traditional biography, but rather a compelling, contemporary reassessment of the life of O’Keeffe with an eye toward understanding what we can learn from her way of being in the world. 

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

As readers of her How to Hepburn and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel know, Karen Karbo does not write traditional biographies. In fact, her reassessments are, as the subtitle of this book notes, lessons on the art of living. Thus, in covering the long (1887-1986) life of painter Georgia O'Keeffe, she teaches us more about how the Wisconsin-born artist found her path and defined her style than about how she mixed her paints or arranged her itineraries. How Georgia Became O'Keeffe describes how this passionately independent woman was able to maintain a successful relationship with Alfred Stieglitz, a masterful photographer with a strong personality. Unconventional both as a biography and a self-help tome; equally useful as both.

Publishers Weekly
Choosing to examine and extract lessons from famed artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s personal life rather than dissect her oeuvre, the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel ponders what it is about O’Keeffe that speaks to us so deeply and what went on inside the artist to allow her to defy society’s conventions and be so “resolutely herself” in the service of an abiding passion.” Growing up on a Wisconsin farm and left to her own devices by a withholding mother gave O’Keeffe the freedom to create her own vision. In her 20s, measles derailed an early career in commercial art, and a short stint teaching art in a remote Texas public school turned her on to the beauty of extreme landscape and how isolation could spark inspiration. O’Keeffe’s marriage to the much older legendary photographer Alfred Stieglitz was bumpy; he was overbearing and unfaithful, but he believed in her vision and genius. This intimate, quirky, and sassy essay makes its iconic subject into an accessible, relevant figure with whom readers, particularly women, can identify. But Karbo’s constant wisecracking and self-referencing grow tiresome, and her adoration of O’Keeffe lacks intellectually rigorous discussion of the art itself. Illus. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
“Karen Karbo's fresh and revealing take on the epic life of Georgia O'Keeffe is both effortlessly entertaining and profoundly inspirational. As vivid and original as an O'Keeffe flower, How Georgia Became O'Keeffe offers a quirky, modern view of one of America's most iconic women.”

—Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—And the Journey of a Generation.

“In this intimate, joyful, and absolutely fun biography, Karen Karbo shows us why artist Georgia O’Keeffe remains an inspiration for women in search of a self-determined life. I will immediately pass this book on to my fifteen-year old daughter so that she can learn from this unforgettable original: gifted, independent, daring, her beauty and creativity raw and unadorned, from youth into her old age.”

—Julie Metz, author of the New York Times bestseller Perfection

"Karen Karbo has done what no biographer, social critic, or fan has yet been able to do. She's burrowed past the genius and the legend and the clichés and arrived at the heart of Georgia-philia. The lessons she imparts remind us that true independence, like true eccentricity, true beauty and, of course, true love, cannot be faked. They remind us that owning your life requires owning your soul and, beyond that, you don't really need much else. I want to give this book to every young woman I know who's setting out on her own in the world—not to mention the rest of us, who could always use a refresher course on this stuff." —Meghan Daum, author of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House

"How perfect that a writer as thoughtful, original, and hilarious as Karen Karbo takes on as a subject the talented, passionate, and fearless Georgia O'Keeffe. The result is a fresh, funny, highly personalized take on ‘the nation's greatest woman artist,’ a meticulously researched, page-turning romp through the life of a painter whose days were as bold and unique as her art." —Cathi Hanauer, author of Sweet Ruin and editor of The Bitch in the House

“Karbo writes like nobody else. She gives you O’Keeffe, but she also serves herself up in relation to O’Keeffe, woman to woman, as it were. Others do this, and the charm is so obviously fake . . . that millions fall for it. Karbo serves up more rueful memories: the dateless high school years, thyroid surgery, going on the O’Keefe trail in an RV. . . . Yes, there’s the standard stuff you want and need to know: the paintings, the photographs, her love of the Southwest. All presented lightly, effortlessly, casually, colloquially. ‘For O'Keeffe, forty was the new sixty,’ Karbo writes. That’s not being cool. That’s just style.” —Jesse Kornbluth, Head Butler

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762771318
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,278,623
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 9.94 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Karbo

Karen Karbo is the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel (skirt!) and How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “an exuberant celebration of a great original.” Her three novels were all named New York Times notable books, and The Stuff of Life, her memoir about her father, was a People Magazine Critic’s Pick and winner of the Oregon Book Award. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Read an Excerpt

How O’Keeffe Became Herself

In the art world, critics remain divided over whether O’Keeffe was a genius or merely an energetic fetishist who pressed upon us, year after year, her sexy yin and yang paintings of calla lilies, sweet peas, the various chalk white bones of horses and cows, mysterious doorways, and adobe walls. What remains indisputable, however, is her genius for navigating the waters of her own vision, for discovering it, nurturing it, and never abandoning it. At a time when women still didn’t have the right to vote, when their life goal was marriage to pretty much anyone who would have them, O’Keeffe was having none of it. She had better fish to fry. How, we may ask, did she catch these all-important fish?

 

She wrote letters

I realize I may as well be suggesting that you take up whittling, but the fact remains that one of the best ways to figure out what you’re all about is to write letters. . . .

She found a devotee

One of the reasons O’Keeffe was able to flaunt the conventions of Canyon with such confidence and ease is because she had Stieglitz rooting her on from New York. . . . .

She defied all accepted conventions of feminine beauty

With her fabulous raw-boned frame, snaggly 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 like her, then or ever. . . .

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