Monday, April 6, 2009

O'Keeffe & Stieglitz

Georgia O'Keeffe, photograph 1918, taken by Alfred Stieglitz

When I was a graduate student at Yale, I was dating a fellow student who held a part-time job at Yale's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. He was the individual who would disappear into the Beinecke treasure trove and re-emerge with priceless artifacts requested by various researchers and students.

I once asked him why he purposely sought out a job at the Beinecke and he told me it was because he was able to disappear into these stacks holding so much history and make discoveries of his own. In fact, he said this job was of such interest to him that he'd use his breaks to sit down in the stacks and read private letters between artists and other historical figures.

It was around this time that he became fascinated with the private letters between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz. He would come home quoting passages which struck him and did his best to describe the ardent passion and respect that they felt for each other...almost blushing with his descriptions.


I had forgotten about this memory and these moments but they flooded back to me when I visited Santa Fe's O'Keeffe Museum at the end of March. The memory was so vivid, I felt compelled to write the following:

standing in the beinecke reading
private words between artists --
he would tell her about snippets
which struck him and,
most of all,
of the passion which burned the letters
onto his memory
and which he later
transferred onto her skin.

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