“Georgia O’Keeffe” by Joan Didion

In Joan Didion’s profile of Georgia O’Keeffe, the great artist is beautifully portrayed as a weathered old soul, who has been battered by her endless critics and came out the victor. It is O’Keeffe’s very words that direct her fans towards the correct path to appreciate her properly.  “Where I was born and where and how I lived is unimportant. . . It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest” (Didion 853).

Crustiness is one adjective Didion uses to describe O’Keeffe, and I must say I concur that to have such a word applied to a person would normally incite a recoil, however it made me nod in agreement, as if no other word could better describe such a woman.

A woman that didn’t care how the Impressionists did something. “At twenty-four she left all those opinions behind and went for the first time to live in Texas, where there were no trees to paint and no one to tell her how not to paint them” (858).

When Didion describes her daughter’s ‘unconscious but quite basic assumption’ of people and their profession, it hit me how I wish Didion’s daughter was right; that everyone’s work should reflect themselves. “She was assuming that the glory she saw in the work reflected a glory in its maker, that the painting was the painter as the poem is the poet, that every choice one made alone — every word chosen or rejected, every brush stroke laid down or not laid down — betrayed one’s character. Style is character” (853).

I believe that unwittingly, today people do reflect themselves in their work, the quality they put into their job, the manner they interact with customers and colleagues.

O’Keeffe bled her character onto every one of her canvases, in every conversation or lack thereof, in every look and tone of voice. She told her contemporaries and the world how she felt, where she stood on the current technique: that she was going to continue on with her work in her way, and that was the way she would always paint and live.


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