O'Keeffe, that is - not the Southern State Ray Charles sang about. I had only heard of Georgia O'Keeffe, but I became more acquainted with her when, about five years ago, my AP and I attended an exhibition at the MOMA featuring the works of her photographer husband, Alfred Stieglitz. Let me be frank. I fell in love with Georgia O'Keeffe at that exhibition. ["Ms. O'keeffe...Georgia, will you marry me?" Please pardon my brief flight of fancy. My AP will, I am sure, indulge and forgive the emotional lapse or the escape of the imagination on my part.] Initially, I thought Stieglitz's photographs of her truly captured her essence, but as I carefully viewed both his portraits and his nude studies of her I changed my opinion and could not help but wonder whether he were in love with her or with some singular, esoteric aspect of her. In those Stieglitz photographs she seems almost sad, distant, remote, yet beautiful.
And then here we were (my AP and I) just a few days ago at the De Young Museum (thanks to my friend, Daniel) in San Francisco standing before Ms. O'Keeffe's Lake George Collection. Absolute Heaven! There before me, not the remote, distant person of Stieglitz's works, but a woman alive, her energy radiating through her paintings, but yet serene, graceful, transcendent. Her works celebrate the union of the "real" and the abstract. They seem to mock the hollow representations in Stieglitz portrayals. In photographing her Stieglitz "lost" her. In focusing on Stieglitz's images of her we lose sight of her; she eludes us, lost in the moment. But it is when we look at her works that we see her. We see her in all her complexity, in all her effervescence, in all her beauty. In Stieglitz she seems tethered, but in her own works we experience her as alive, free.
"I said now Georgia, Georgia
A song of you (a song of you)
Comes as sweet and clear
As moonlight through the pines"
[Photographic image of Painting from Georgia O'Keeffe's Lake George Collection]