Sunday, January 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Georgia by Dawn Tripp

I won this book from goodreads! This did not influence my review.

Receiving an ARC of the novel Georgia by Dawn Tripp from goodreads did not influence my review, but it did lead me to read the book sooner than I might have done otherwise. I love biographical novels about exquisitely talented people, but I generally prefer reading about literary figures rather than artists or musicians.

Nevertheless, Georgia O’Keeffe’s work is intriguing and the blurb hinted at a fascinating life, so I settled in to see what I could learn about the artist. This novel was so much more than I expected.

Georgia is narrated in O’Keeffe’s voice, an older woman, looking back on her life. Most specifically, she looks back on the part of her life that she spent with the acclaimed photographer and art connoisseur/manager, Alfred Stieglitz. Their passionate love affair was consuming, but not all-consuming. It shaped the art that both produced, yet it was devotion to their separate artistic visions that sustained them as individuals. Georgia narrates the course of the relationship with painful emotional intensity and with a somewhat wistful clarity that comes with hindsight.

Georgia O’Keeffe was a small-college art teacher in Texas, whose charcoal drawings, sent to a friend in New York, caught the eye of Stieglitz, who owned and ran a gallery in the city. He was well known, not only for his own brilliant photography, but for his support of artists he believed in. His praise of her early drawings brought her to New York. An immediate attraction formed.

Stieglitz was, unfortunately, married. It took a little time and effort to ditch his first wife so he could devote himself to Georgia—her career and her person. Older, established, and manipulative in ways that seemed subtle at first but then became obvious, Stiegliz loved Georgia’s freeness, while at the same time, he sought to control her. Georgia’s need to paint, to be free to create while someone else handled the business end of her career, put her more and more under his direction. That didn’t mean their love was any less real or important. But over time, she began to see that she needed to break free of him in order to have her own life back for herself and her art.

This is a beautiful novel, showing a love that flames and then runs its course as betrayals and one-sided sacrifices take their toll. And it’s a beautiful homage to the brilliance of Georgia O’Keeffe.