Very glad I had the opportunity to view this exhibit prior to its closing at The Brooklyn Museum a little over a month ago. O’Keeffe’s work is so universally recognized today, it makes it almost difficult to come at it with a clean critical perspective. I found it refreshing that the exhibit, rather than concentrating on her own body of work, instead chose to concentrate on the woman as an artwork.
The pieces that struck me the most were the works of her husband, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz…
“From 1917 to 1937, in a project unprecedented in the history of modern photography, Stieglitz made some 330 images of O’Keefe, a series he referred to as an ongoing portrait.”
His adoration, their lifelong love affair, it fascinates me. Though their relationship was often fraught and suffered it’s hardships over the years, their love for one another always won out. It’s hard for me to believe something like that is even possible. But their letters and the work stands as a testament to such love.
I like to imagine love like that. An ongoing portrait we build of one another.
“What do I want from you? — … Sometimes I feel I’m going stark mad — That I ought to say — Dearest — You are so much to me that you must not come near me — Coming may bring you darkness instead of light — And it’s in Everlasting light that you should live.”
(letter from Stieglitz to O’Keeffe, May 26, 1918)
“I’m getting to like you so tremendously that it some times scares me… Having told you so much of me — more than anyone else I know — could anything else follow but that I should want you — “
(letter from O’Keeffe to Stieglitz, November 4, 1916)
“There is much life in me — when it was always checked in moving toward you — I realized it would die if it could not move toward something … I chose coming away because here at least I feel good — and it makes me feel I am growing very tall and straight inside — and very still — Maybe you will not love me for it — but for me it seems to be the best thing I can do for you — I hope this letter carries no hurt to you — It is the last thing I want to do in the world.
Today it rains —”
(O’Keeffe to Stieglitz, July 9, 1929)
and faithless I leave
it to myself to make
my own ongoing
portrait a study
of a runaway muse