Life, Art and Imitation


There’s something to be said for waking up to this kind of view.

It’s like having a Georgia O’Keeffe painting on your wall. Only it’s real and ever-changing. I see now, what she saw here.

Of course, I can’t quite capture the image like she could.

I remember a story I read in her biography (autobiography?). The book is still packed, so I’m pulling this out of memory.

When Georgia was a young woman, she drew and painted. She wanted to be an artist. At one point a teacher told her she didn’t have what it took. That her skills and talent were adequate, but that she lacked that something extra that would make her a great artist.

And really, you have to be great if you want to make a living at it. The Pro-Football player analogy.

Georgia went back to her room — she was living at a boarding school, though I don’t recall now if she was still a student or teaching there. And she took all of her work and hung it on the walls. She papered the walls with it and sat there and looked at all of it.

She saw her teacher was right.

None of it had that extra something that would transform it from image into art.

So, she destroyed it all. Burned it, maybe? Or something less dramatic — perhaps she just stuffed it all in the trash can.

I can’t recall the sequence after that, except that she discarded all she knew and started over. She might have not painted for a while. And when she began again: it was there. The thing that makes Georgia O’Keeffe art instantly recognizable.

Sometimes someone would bemoan the art she’d destroyed. She would reply that it was no loss.

Maybe I’m leaving out the important part of the story here, the “how she did it” part. But I don’t think so. Clearly that’s not the part that stuck with me. The part that did is the image of her, standing in the center of her room, with everything she’d done stuck all over the walls. And what it took for her to see that it wasn’t good. To destroy it for that reason.

Every time I see her art now, I think of that moment. It magnifies my admiration.

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