This is not a love story. If it were, we would have the same story. But he has his, and I have mine.
In 1916, Georgia O’Keeffe is a young, unknown art teacher when she travels to New York to meet Stieglitz, the famed photographer and art dealer, who has discovered O’Keeffe’s work and exhibits it in his gallery. Their connection is instantaneous. O’Keeffe is quickly drawn into Stieglitz’s sophisticated world, becoming his mistress, protégé, and muse, as their attraction deepens into an intense and tempestuous relationship and his photographs of her, both clothed and nude, create a sensation.
Yet as her own creative force develops, Georgia begins to push back against what critics and others are saying about her and her art. And soon she must make difficult choices to live a life she believes in.
A breathtaking work of the imagination, Georgia is the story of a passionate young woman, her search for love and artistic freedom, the sacrifices she will face, and the bold vision that will make her a legend.
Praise for Georgia
“Complex and original . . . Georgia conveys O’Keeffe’s joys and disappointments, rendering both the woman and the artist with keenness and consideration.”—The New York Times Book Review
“As magical and provocative as O’Keeffe’s lush paintings of flowers that upended the art world in the 1920s . . . Tripp inhabits Georgia’s psyche so deeply that the reader can practically feel the paintbrush in hand as she creates her abstract paintings and New Mexico landscapes. . . . Evocative from the first page to the last, Tripp’s Georgia is a romantic yet realistic exploration of the sacrifices one of the foremost artists of the twentieth century made for love.”—USA Today
“Sexually charged . . . insightful . . . Dawn Tripp humanizes an artist who is seen in biographies as more icon than woman. Her sensuous novel is as finely rendered as an O’Keeffe painting.”—The Denver Post
“A vivid work forged from the actual events of O’Keeffe’s life . . . [Tripp] imbues the novel with a protagonist who forces the reader to consider the breadth of O’Keeffe’s talent, business savvy, courage and wanderlust. . . . [She] is vividly alive as she grapples with success, fame, integrity, love and family.”—Salon
“Masterful . . . The book is a lovely portrayal of an iconic artist who is independent and multidimensional. Tripp’s O’Keeffe is a woman hoping to break free of conventional definitions of art, life and gender, as well as a woman of deep passion and love.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“O’Keeffe blazes across the pages in Tripp’s tour de force about this indomitable woman. . . . Tripp has hit her stride here, bringing to life one of the most remarkable artists of the twentieth century with veracity, heart, and panache.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“I devoured this dazzling novel about an American icon. Dawn Tripp brings Georgia O’Keeffe so fully to life on every page and, with great wisdom, examines the very nature of love, longing, femininity, and art.”—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Maine and The Engagements
From the Hardcover edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
1979, Abiquiu, New Mexico
I bought this house for the door. The house itself was a ruin, but I had to have that door. Over the years, I’ve painted it many times, all different ways: abstract, representational, blue, black, brown. I’ve painted it in the hot green of summer, in the dead of winter, clouds rushing past it, a lone yellow leaf drifting down. I painted the door open only once. Just before he died. In every picture after, it was closed.
This is not a love story. If it were, we would have the same story. But he has his, and I have mine. He used to say it all began with the charcoal abstractions I made in 1915 before I met him. I was twenty-seven, a schoolteacher, poor, driven only by a singular, relentless passion for my art. One night, I turned my back on everything I’d learned about what art should be, I locked the door of my room and got down on the floor with large sheets of paper and charcoal. I remember the cool hush of the night through the window as shapes poured out of the nub of charcoal in my hand.
Finished, I rolled up the drawings and sent them to my friend Anita Pollitzer in New York. She brought them to Stieglitz at his gallery. When he saw them, he told her, “These are the purest, fairest, sincerest things that have entered 291 in a long while.”
I knew who he was—everyone did. I’d met him once before though he would not remember. The father of modern photography. An icon of American art. In groundbreaking shows at 291, Alfred Stieglitz had introduced New York to the work of Picasso and Matisse. A brilliant photographer in his own right, he was known more for the careers of the artists he’d “made.”
I wrote to him at 291 and asked him to tell me what he saw in my charcoal drawings. He wrote back to say he wanted to show my work, I should send him more. We exchanged letters back and forth across the country. I spent every extra dollar on brushes, paper, paint.
Over the years, this would be the story he told, again and again, until it became The Story: those charcoals; his discovery of me; our correspondence that began shortly after. He would say I was what he had been waiting for. What he had always known was meant to exist.
Because Stieglitz used words with a certain unique force, his version of our story prevailed.
“You will be a legend,” he said to me once.
“No,” he said. “I see it. It’s already in you.”
Legend. A word he would use again and again.
He had faith in me. He did not give me greatness, but his faith in my early work gave me the space to achieve it. He knew this then, and perhaps on some level he also knew that for me to fully become the legend he saw, I would have to leave him.
Tonight in New Mexico, so many years later, the air is clear. My sight is gone, but I know this view by heart. The ropy silvered turns of the road passing below my window, the shrubby heads of the cottonwoods, the river valley, the distant line of hills. The shapes of the world out there are shadowy. Lean and contoured strokes, they glow. The moon shines and cuts the night open.
There’s a grain of truth to Stieglitz’s version of things: The story of my art in his life did begin the moment he unrolled those charcoals. But to my mind, our story began more than a year later. I was still teaching, at a small college in Texas, sending him my pictures as I made them. A curious intimacy had begun to evolve in our letters.
It was late May 1917 when Stieglitz wrote to say he had hung a small show of my watercolors and charcoals. My first show. It would be 291’s last. He was closing the gallery. The war. I felt my heart skip as I read those lines. What I’d give to see my things on those walls.
For three days, I walked around with his letter in my pocket. Then I went to the bank manager’s house on a Sunday and begged him to open, so I could withdraw the last two hundred dollars I had to buy a train ticket from Texas to New York.
I did not tell Stieglitz I was coming.
May 1917, New York
291. The walls are bare, already stripped. He looks up and when he sees me standing in the doorway, his face changes, softens to a simple pleasure, lit. “Georgia.”
He dismisses the two fellows he was speaking with.
“You’ve come all this way,” he says. “I had no idea you were coming to New York.”
“I know, I should have told you.”
“Your show was taken down two days ago. I’m sorry.”
His eyes are dark, piercing through his bent spectacles, a kind of deep-set fire in them; his hair thick and wild, turning steel gray. He is in his mid-fifties, nearly twice my age.
“Where are you staying?” he says.
“With a friend. Near Teachers College.”
His eyes have not left my face. “Wait,” he says. He goes into the back room and reappears with two of my pictures.
“Sit down.” He gestures to a chair.
I shake my head. “I’d rather stand.”
He pauses. “You aren’t going to leave?”
He begins to hang my art, piece after piece. My watercolor skies, my charcoal landscapes of the canyon with the humped shapes of cows, my numbered blues. He hangs them exactly as he’d placed them for the show. A sureness in how he handles them. Prophet. Seer. Giant of the art world. Iconoclast. The small room is hot. I can feel threads of sweat moving down my body, heat in my throat, in my hands.
He is married, I tell myself. A wife. A daughter. You’re his artist. Nothing more.
I think back to a day in February, his letters were piling up—sometimes five in a week—I had begun to dread their coming. Began to dread even more the impatient hunger I felt for them to come. And on that day, in the one free hour I had between classes, instead of going to the post office to see what he had sent, I made myself not go. I bought a box of bullets instead, took my gun and some old tin cans, walked out across the plains, threw the cans onto the ground, and shot at them like I could blow that hunger right apart—
Now, at 291, he strides past me. The gallery walls are no longer empty, as they were when I arrived. The room has sparked to life.
One piece does not hang straight. He crosses back to it and gently shifts the frame’s edge to be just as he wants it. Then it is done. The room is very still. Light filters through the skylight to the floor.
He turns to me. “Look,” he says. My eyes flow slowly over the walls, over my art. “You should have been here to see the whole show,” he says. “You would have seen how it stunned them. I can’t tell you how many times I had that thought: If only she were here.” His voice drops. A nameless, burning thing between us. I laugh, an awkward laugh, but it breaks the spell and things are light again. I am light, and he is just a man. I walk with him through the room, looking at my pictures on the walls. We pause at a painting of the Palo Duro canyon—the golden sloped walls, rimmed with fleecy clouds, wet blue sky in the upper right corner.
“That country out there is entirely unlike New York, isn’t it?” he says. “And you love it, don’t you?”
“The sky is just so big. The distances. It’s hard to describe. It reminds me of Sun Prairie.”
“Yes. Where I grew up.”
Farmland rolling away, wheat like golden snow. But it was the sky I loved most—the beautiful free waste of it. When chores on the farm were done, there was nothing to do but wander out into that sky.
We are still facing the picture of the canyon, standing near enough that I realize I could stretch my fingers and touch the point at his sleeve where the wrist disappears at the cuff.
“It’s important that you work more in oil,” he says. “You’ll have to—you know.”
“Oil is stubborn. I don’t always like it.”
He laughs. “You will learn to.”
It is the future he is speaking of.
He quotes from the critics, some of the reviews. I have already seen them. He sent them to me and, though I could not quite bear to read them, I notice the words live on his tongue: exile, privation, flowing, rise, mystical, in a sensitized line.
I am aware of him standing near me—so near, it feels almost unsafe.
“I want to photograph you with your pictures,” he suddenly says. “May I?”
I nod. He goes into the back room and returns with the camera and tripod.
“Stand there,” he says, pointing to one of my blues. “In front of that. No, not to the side, put it behind you. Make it the background of you.”
Inch to the left, three inches forward, half an inch back. He knows what he wants. “No, less. Turn your chin. Yes. That’s it.” He disappears behind the camera under the worn black cloth.
“Look directly here.” His voice snakes into the room like it is not his voice, but another—softer, lower, streaming from the lens.
I can feel him, watching me, waiting, the other side of the camera, the silence of the room charged now as he waits for the light to shift and fall a certain way, an expression on my face that he is waiting for, he will wait until he has it.
“There,” he says. “Now. Whatever you are thinking, don’t lose it. Don’t move. Don’t blink. Nothing.”
The shutter clicks. I am counting. Counting. It takes so long—but there’s a kind of raw pleasure in holding still, like I am stone on the outside, my heart beating through my skin so deep and loud I’m sure he will hear it. I’m aware of his eyes behind the camera, the hot dark work of them, and I feel my body rise.
“Don’t move,” he whispers. “Georgia.”
I stay in New York for ten days. He invites me to lunch and we walk the streets, laughing, talking. The buildings seem to shimmer, spring sun striking off them. He tells me about Oaklawn, his family’s summer home at Lake George—how he always starts to feel the pull of it this time of year, in spring when the buds swell and the world is busting open.
“I love the Lake the way you love your plains and sky.”
I glance at him. A small white dog runs across the path in front of us, a child running after, long spindling legs churning. He talks about his daughter, Kitty, who will enter Smith College in the fall. He calls his wife Mrs. Stieglitz, a strain in the silence that follows.
He asks about my family. I talk about my four sisters: Catherine and Anita are married, Ida’s a nurse; Claudie, the youngest, still in school, lives out in Texas with me. I don’t talk about our father who turned to drink and disappeared. I don’t mention my mother who died last spring.
We come to a man selling oranges and stop for one. I peel it as we walk, my fingers tacky with the juice.
“Do you miss Texas when you’re here?” he asks.
“Right now?” I say lightly and smile. “No.”
There is a push in the silence between us. I am keenly aware of the stink of the horses, the blare of the cars, voices passing, trees like green shadows. A carriage passes by.
“You must continue to send me your things,” he says.
“Even with no gallery?”
“I’ll find a way to show them. And you must send them carefully—better packaging, more postage. They must arrive safe.”
“It’s hard to imagine there will be no 291.”
I see him frown. “There was no choice anymore. The war. The expense.”
“It just feels wrong that something with such meaning would not exist.”
“It will exist somewhere else. Just keep making your pictures and send them to me.” He smiles then. “You, Great Woman Child.”
He has called me crazy things like this in his letters. “How can I be both?” I say. “Both Great Woman and Child. Tell me. I’ve wondered this.”
I expect him to laugh, but he doesn’t.
“That’s what gives your art greatness,” he says simply. “You have what a child has—a pure unpolluted instinct. What I call Whiteness. And you are a woman.”
So casual—how he uses that word, Greatness—as if he’s unfolding something I already know.
Back at 291, he introduces me to a few of his circle—the men. There’s the collector Jacob Dewald, the inventor Henry Gaisman, the painter Arthur Dove. They have already seen my pictures—and are full of compliments and praise. I briefly meet John Marin, the best-known of Stieglitz’s artists. He’ll render smashed sunlight on a coast in forked block lines. When I first saw his work, it reminded me of Kandinsky.
Stiegtliz’s newest protégé, Paul Strand, is also there. He has a work apron on, a hammer in his hand. He looks like a boy dressed up in someone else’s costume. A solemn round face, blue eyes. He shows me one of his photographs of bowls—four very ordinary kitchen bowls—but cropped close up, disorienting.
“So beautiful!” I say. And it is—how the curve of one bowl falls into the curve of the next—a definite, near-perfect balance in resolute asymmetry.
“A similar sense of feeling to your blue spiral, Georgia,” Stieglitz says, coming over.
“Different, though,” I say.
“Here, in the bowls, the movement is happening in many directions at once. Not only one. The cropping intensifies that. It magnifies the motion and makes us believe it continues.” I point at a shadow in the shape of a blade, sharply cropped, at the print’s edge.
“Exactly right,” Stieglitz says, a beat of triumph in his voice, “although I have to admit I myself didn’t see it quite that way before.” He looks at Strand, then at the others. They nod assent, his admiration echoed in their eyes, and in that moment I understand: There are things this man values in me, things he wants. He treats me as an equal, more than equal, and for that reason alone, others will see me that way.
On June 1, there is only rain, as if the city itself will pour away. I wake at dawn and watch the world outside slide down the window glass.
At the train station, Gaisman goes off to check the schedule. Stieglitz and I are alone on the platform. The ache is almost unbearable. A strand of hair falls across my eyes. He moves it.
“Lovely, You,” he says.
Reading Group Guide
A Conversation with Dawn Tripp
Random House Reader’s Circle: Why did you choose to write a novel about Georgia O’Keeffe?
Dawn Tripp: It’s a gut impulse, always, that drives me into a story. I came to O’Keeffe through her art, specifically a show of her abstractions at the Whitney Museum in New York. In that show, O’Keeffe’s art was paired with Alfred Stieglitz’s photographs of her—clothed and nude—along with excerpts of their letters, and I was struck by the realization: Here is a woman that most people know of but barely know at all. Growing up, I’d always admired O’Keeffe’s flowers and landscapes, but that day at the Whitney, I fell in love with her abstractions. As early as 1915, Georgia O’Keeffe—not even thirty years old—was creating radically new abstract forms. And I wanted to know: Who was the woman, the artist, who made these shapes? What did she think, feel, want? What was happening in her life? And why have I never seen the full range and power of her abstract work before? Why isn’t she known for this?
There are many stellar, insightful nonfiction works that have been written about O’Keeffe, but I believe that fiction can get at a different kind of truth, an experiential truth that allows us to enter a character’s story and be transformed. Facts and the historical record are always incomplete. Truth is kaleidoscopic, continually changing and evolving according to our perspective. To me, fiction is another means of cutting past the surface to reshape our understanding of what is true, to cast new light on the weight and impact of a life.
In Georgia, I wanted to write a first-person account from O’Keeffe’s point of view, in her voice, as I imagined it. I wanted to get into her head—into the sweeping and intimate world between her and Stieglitz. I wanted to get right up against what she might have felt and thought and questioned, what she loved and feared and ached for, what she fought, remembered, dreamed. I wanted to bring that internal world to life.
RHRC: What intrigued you about the relationship between O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz?
DT: Their love affair was a loaded one: Ambition. Desire. Sex. Love. Fame. Betrayal. A search for artistic freedom. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. The stormy passion that characterized their marriage was intriguing, but the politics of that relationship, and how those politics impacted the work of both artists, even more so. Here was a young woman—intelligent and independent—with a ferocious artistic talent and a revolutionary vision years ahead of her time, and here was a man—famed art promoter and the father of modern photography—nearly twice her age and at the tail end of his own artistic career. He fell so deeply in love with her, had faith in her greatness, but needed to orchestrate every element of the world around him, blind to the risk of losing what he wanted most.
O’Keeffe was a strong woman who recognized that passion, sexual and otherwise, can be a key inspiration for creative work. That said, she refused to allow her art to be described in the eroticized language first assigned to it—language born out of Stieglitz’s photographs of her and cultivated by the primarily male modernist New York art world of the 1920s. O’Keeffe balked at the feminization of her work. She had no interest in being a great female artist. She wanted her work viewed simply as art. She began to take clear, methodical steps to create a new lens and language to frame her artistic vision.
RHRC: Georgia is a highly researched historical novel. What was that experience like?
DT: Research is always a process of discovery. There is so much you learn about a person, a world, an era. You see the underside of things and it sparks your imagination. That process itself is thrilling. One thing that did strike me—and continues to strike me—is that O’Keeffe has been a powerful force in the consciousness of many women over time—artists, writers, feminists, curators, scholars—who have consistently dedicated themselves to holding her and her life up in a way that has ultimately precipitated a meaningful reassessment of her work and influence on twentieth-century American Art.
Georgia is a novel grounded in the actual events of O’Keeffe’s life during the years she lived with Stieglitz in New York. Those years were a crucible for her. Those were the years when her art was first recognized. Those were the years when she fell in love, craved a child, had her heart broken, became famous, nearly lost what mattered to her most, and resolved never to compromise again. Those were the years when she made unthinkable sacrifices in her life and key innovations in her art. To my sense, those years forged her greatness. Not because of what Stieglitz, or anyone else, did for her, or to her, but for how she met and overcame the challenges and the gender bias that she faced; and for how she went on to shape the direction of her art and career on her own terms.
RHRC: What was your primary goal in writing this novel? Why did you decide to take on the story of a key American figure and explore—through fiction—a part of her life that is less well known?
DT: Vladimir Nabokov once called the art of fiction “a shimmering go-between” and that’s the space I wanted to write into—the space between what happened and what could have. I wanted to craft a story about true events and circumstances to explore how O’Keeffe might have met and experienced those events, and also to reveal how our perception of her—even to this day—has been shadowed by the gendered language assigned to her early work. I believe in O’Keeffe’s strength, her genius, and the creative innovations she made. The abstract art she was creating as early as 1915—and the abstractions she continued to create throughout her lifetime—gave rise to some of the most important artistic movements of the twentieth century. My hope is that Georgia gives readers a glimpse into that. And I hope it brings people to her art.
RHRC: What was the greatest challenge for you writing Georgia?
DT: The voice. It took me over a year to find the voice of this novel. I did research, filled notebooks (I still write my early drafts longhand). I studied her paintings and the evolution of her art over time. I looked at Stieglitz’s portraits of her and portraits made by other photographers taken later in her life. I wrote pieces of scene, fragments of thought and dialogue, but most of those early pages felt like cardboard, and I tore them up. Throughout that first year of work, I’d catch glimpses of what I thought the voice would be, but I couldn’t quite nail it.
I was not at my desk when it hit me. I was outside, down at the river with my two boys. It was a warm afternoon in April. They had their jeans rolled up and were playing in the water. I was lying on the dock in the sun, and the words came: “I no longer love you as I once did, in the dazzling rush of those early days. Time itself was feverish then, our bodies filled with fire. . . .”
I sat up and looked around and the world was different. I started writing the following day.
RHRC: Do you think O’Keeffe would have become the American icon she is today if she had stayed with Stieglitz?
DT: She might have been an iconic figure, but she would have been a different kind of icon if she had not removed herself from New York and the confines of that landscape and that life. That said, O’Keeffe is only just beginning to get her fair share of recognition in the art world. Last summer the Tate Modern in the UK held its first major retrospective of O’Keeffe’s work and stated its goal to: “review O’Keeffe’s work in depth and reassess her place in the canon of twentieth-century art, situating her within artistic circles of her own generation and indicating her influence on artists of subsequent generations.” O’Keeffe has been known as one of the most famous figures of American art, but she has—often and incorrectly—been considered simply a “popular artist.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The range of her work is stunning. Her abstractions are masterful—visceral, glowing, cerebral, strikingly original and precise.
RHRC: This novel took six years to write. What was it like to be engaged so deeply in Georgia O’Keeffe’s life for that length of time?
DT: For me, writing is a kind of soul-excavation that is personal and, at the same time, transcends the personal. O’Keeffe’s fierce spirit, her determination to build a life on her own terms, and the sacrifices she made for the sake of her art, remain the most inspiring aspects of her story.
Growing older, I’ve come to understand that a key part of a creative life—whether you are a working artist or not—is recognizing that every day is a choice. You choose to dedicate more or less time to a given endeavor. You develop ways to balance your work with your personal life. To me, that awareness of everyday choices is exhilarating, and there is also an attendant sadness. Every choice comes with a sacrifice. That’s not a reason not to make it, or to apologize for a choice you’ve made. Choices made at one point in your life may change as the parameters of your life change. I believe in staying open to that. O’Keeffe was a strong, innovative woman who achieved fame and success in an art world dominated by men—male painters, critics, gallery owners. She did not apologize for the choices she made, and she continued to make bold choices, again and again, as she aged. That alone makes her story intensely relevant to women and artists today. It will make her story relevant years from now.
1. Georgia O’Keeffe is a woman many people know of, but her life as a young woman in New York is a chapter that is less well known. How did your understanding of O’Keeffe and her art change as you were reading Georgia?
2. O’Keeffe was a groundbreaking female artist at a time when the art world was dominated by men. O’Keeffe had to navigate this world – of male artists, male critics and gallery owners – to build a successful career without sacrificing her unique artistic vision and her sense of herself as a woman. Discuss some of the challenges O’Keeffe faces in Georgia. Discuss how those challenges as well as the risks she took – as a woman and as an artist – feel relevant to women today.
3. Think about O’Keeffe’s childhood. Do you feel that the lessons she learned growing up shaped her early relationship with Stieglitz and the choices she would make later? Although O’Keeffe’s mother died from tuberculosis a year before O’Keeffe traveled to New York to see her first show at 291, O’Keeffe is haunted by her mother, and by the choices that her mother made. Why were these choices significant, and what was their impact on O’Keeffe?
4. O’Keeffe’s passion for the landscape is a powerful engine for her art. At one point, early in the novel, O’Keeffe thinks to herself that Stieglitz and his faith in her art are “like that open space, vast like these plains, this night, vast enough it seems sometimes to hold me.” Do you agree with this? In what ways is this perception true when O’Keeffe first meets Stieglitz, and in what ways does it change as she matures? Do you feel her experience is one common to women as they evolve and change in the course of their lives?
5. In the opening chapter of the book, O’Keeffe contends: “This is not a love story. If it were, we would have the same story. But he has his, and I have mine.” What do you think O’Keeffe means when she says this? In what ways is Georgia a love story? How does O’Keeffe’s understanding of the word ‘love’ change in the course of the novel?
6. When their relationship was going through a challenging time, O’Keeffe wrote to Stieglitz from New Mexico:
“There is a bond – that is my feeling for you – it is deeper than anything you can do to me –”
What are your first impressions of this statement? Do these words reflect Georgia’s strength and self-awareness? Her commitment to Stieglitz? Or do they reflect something else? How do these words interface with Georgia’s struggle to balance her own needs with the demands of her relationship? How do these words play out in the course of the story?
7. Discuss O’Keeffe’s breakdown. Why do you think she falls apart?
8. Discuss what it means to O’Keeffe when she feels she is unable to paint, and when she says: “This isn’t just him, and what he’s done to me. It’s what I’ve let him do.” Do you agree? Do you believe that every relationship – no matter how passionate or spiritual – is a kind of transaction?
9. Desire is a powerful force for O’Keeffe – artistic desire; desire for place, connection, and solitude; desire between two people. How does O’Keeffe’s relationship to desire change? What does her exchange with Toomer toward the end of the book say about what she has learned? Discuss the ways in which love and desire overlap and diverge. Which is more vital to O’Keeffe? Which do you believe is more vital in your own life?
10. Georgia’s relationship with Stieglitz was complex and controversial – it was a source of artistic growth for both artists, but it was also restricting. Discuss the dynamics in the relationship. Do they remind you of relationships in your own life – either relationships you have observed or relationships you have experienced? How have those relationships impacted your life? What have you learned from them?
11. Reflect on O’Keeffe’s relationships with other women in the novel. What did those relationships mean to her? How did those relationships differ from her various relationships with men – including Stieglitz, Strand, Steichen, Rosenfeld, and others?
12. In the final sections of the novel, O’Keeffe becomes the legendary artist we know. What sacrifices does she make as a result? Do you feel these were sacrifices she had to make in order to live and work on her own terms? Do you think those choices are unique to her? In what ways do you feel they are common choices that all women face?
13. If you could have one O’Keeffe painting in your home, which one would it be? Before reading this novel, would you have chosen a different O’Keeffe painting? How has your understanding of O’Keeffe and her art changed as a result of reading Georgia?
14. What do you think it means to be an icon? What did it mean to O’Keeffe during the time she was with Stieglitz? How did her identity and portrayal as an American icon change over the course of her life?
15. O’Keeffe is known for being fiercely independent, and she is often seen as a “foremother of the feminist movement.” O’Keeffe herself, however, publicly eschewed any “–ism,” including feminism. Consider the gender dynamics in Georgia. Do you feel it was the politics of O’Keeffe’s relationship with Stieglitz, her upbringing and the hardship of her young adult life, or her unique creative vision that shaped her resolute unwillingness to be associated with any movement, artistic or otherwise? Why do you feel that was so important to her? Discuss.
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The book tells the story of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, from their first meeting through to his death. To say the book is only a novelized form of O'Keeffe's life would be to ignore the powerful influence Stieglitz was in her life. The book begins when O'Keeffe is teaching school in the Texas panhandle. It moves then to O'Keeffe's move to New York and her affair with Stieglitz. Part of the issue for me with this book is the beginning when they are sending letters and even her first meeting with him in New York doesn't give the reader any clear picture of why she is so drawn to him, except for the power he has in the art world with his gallery 291. I wished for more in the letters. Something to explain why she waited for them and how they fueled the love affair that was to come. As the book moves towards their relationship I wanted to understand more about O'Keeffe's work and less detailed sex scenes. Totaled I think the descriptions about O'Keeffe's thoughts on art are outnumbered by the pages devoted to their sex life. Surely, in Texas, there was something calling her to the landscapes, and the canyons. Why nothing about that? The book has a sentence that really sums up the entire work. It's when O'Keeffe is on her first visit to New Mexico when she wonders if Stieglitz was her detour to who she was supposed to become. It's a beautiful sentence and really works beautifully.