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Georgia O'Keefe

This 1977 documentary was produced toward the end of O'Keefe's life, at a time when the artist was at one with her art and her life. The hour-long film plays mainly off of O'Keefe's own words; there is no narrator's voice, there is barely an interviewer's voice. O'Keefe speaks alone--with a soft, gentle eloquence that we can also hear in her paintings, a well-articulated firmness that is unintimidating, witty, provocative, and in the end, beautiful. O'Keefe was born in Wisconsin where she learned to suppress her eccentric ideas and her drive to paint--a career goal she set at the age of 12--so that she and her mother wouldn't quarrel. A talented artist from the outset, she was trained classically in New York where she studied to be a teacher. She accepted a job in North Carolina, because she thought it would allow her the time and focus to produce the art she craved to produce. But after a year of painting, she threw away everything she had made--each piece had been to please someone else, and what O'Keefe deeply wanted was to find an art that pleased her. A job in Texas brought her finally to the country that would shape her art and her renown: her paintings of desiccated animal bones, flowers, landscapes, and architectural close-ups, juxtaposed with the stunning blue of the Southwestern sky. She would send paintings to a friend in New York, writing that she wanted to know what her friend thought--and to make sure O'Keefe wasn't going mad. But her friend got photographer Alfred Stieglitz interested in O'Keefe's abstract work. O'Keefe's intense relationship with Stieglitz evolved over years into one of the best known relationships in the arts; they married. But, quite humorously, O'Keefe refers to Stieglitz never as "Alfred" or "my husband," just "Stieglitz." Perry Miller Adato's documentary brings O'Keefe's paintings to life in the artist's own words. Her enthusiasm for form, for making the small and unnoticeable immense, for intense and vibrant color: This is a rewarding journey through the soul and the eye of a 20th-century great.

 

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