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Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

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Felicity's disguise

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Entries in georgia o'keeffe (5)


In Which Alfred Stieglitz Remains Possessive At All Times

Stieglitz's self-portrait, 1890

The Tiny Gospel


America is going through a period of luxury and unrest bordering nearly on madness.

Alfred Stieglitz had left New York for Vienna in 1881. When he returned in 1890, the Big Apple was a completely changed city. The dark, dangerous metropolis Stieglitz had left grew incandescent in the evening, revealed by the onset of electrici


One aspect of the city became open to him, another closed. His parents wanted young Alfred to marry a spoiled 20 year named Emmeline, called Emmy. Before his wedding, Alfred Stieglitz burned the diary he had kept since he was nine.

Emmy refused to have sex with her new husband, but this was nonce to him. He continued photographing the city and its denizens, and even improved his piano-playing. He gave his new wife the silent treatment. Four years into the marriage, Alfred and Emmy Stieglitz conceived their only child.

Edward Steichen's photograph of Kitty and Alfried Stieglitz

To commemorate the occasion, the family moved into a new apartment on Madison and 84th. Their daughter Kitty quickly became the center of their conflict, with Stieglitz insisting on photographing the girl almost every second of her life.

Emmy and Alfred were now on speaking terms, but it never got much better than that. As Kitty grew older and remained under the influence of her mother, daughter and father too liked each other less and less. Stieglitz had little time for his family spreading the tiny gospel that was still photography occupied most of his waking hours. "I would rather be a first class photographer in a community of first class photographers," he pronounced, "than the greatest photographer in a community of non-entities."


Kitty graduated from Smith with honors in 1921. She had written her father many letters during her senior year at that Massachusetts college, bonding with him for the first time in her life with her mother in absentia. Since her parents were not speaking again, Alfred could not attend her commencement, but the two grew closer in the years that followed her marriage to a Boston salesman named Milton Stewart.

In June of 1923 Alfred became a grandfather when Kitty gave birth to a son. Severe bouts of postpartum depression dominated Kitty's days. She alternated lashing out at her father for his neglect of her with expressions of closeness. "I certainly failed in so many ways in spite of all my endeavours to protect and help her prepare herself for life," Stieglitz wrote. "I realize with every new day what a child I have been & still am absurdly so. It sometimes disgusts me with myself."

O'Keeffe and Stieglitz much later, in 1944

This experience completely convinced Alfred that having a baby with his girlfriend, an artist named Georgia O'Keeffe, was a terrible idea. He continued affairs with other women as well, and he did not want babies with them either. He wrote romantic letters to the wife of his friend Paul Strand, although a relationship with Rebecca Strand would only ever be consummated by Georgia. O'Keeffe was annoyed by Alfred's behavior, rebelling against it whenever she could, but she did tolerate it.

"Stieglitz wants his own way of living," Rebecca Strand told her husband Paul, "and his passion for trying to make other people see it in the face of their own inherent qualities really gets things into such a state of pressure that you sometimes feeling as though you were suffocating." Meanwhile, Kitty's condition had put her suddenly doting father in a weakened state. He made peace with Emmy and together they admitted Kitty into a gorgeous sanitarium in upstate New York.


Alfred Stieglitz was suddenly 60 and one of the world's most celebrated photographers. Kidney stones made his nights restless. He passed the time by reading Ulysses. The divorce from Emmy was final. The following summer his daughter was discharged from the hospital to a summer house at Sagamore Beach. He proposed to Georgia; she declined.

By the fall Kitty had been returned to the sanitarium. Her doctor came to Alfred with a proposal. If he married O'Keeffe, they suggested, Kitty might come to a peace of mind that would aid her recovery. In light of these circumstances, Georgia accepted her boyfriend's proposal after considerable pressure was exerted.

Kitty Stieglitz photographed by her father with her uncle Joseph

The hasty marriage would change nothing, however, and Kitty's behavior was that of an indolent teen. She never left the care of doctors, spending the next fifty years trying to get well before her death. Kitty never permitted her father to visit, but her mother Emmy came every single week.


"Marriage, if it is real must be based on a wish that each person attain his potentiality, be the thing he might be, as a tree bears its fruit - at the time realizing responsibility to the other party," Stieglitz explained to himself. He was impressively dedicated, even in old age, to thinking of very good reasons why he could not be a faithful husband.

Georgia's health problems complicated their new union, restricting her to bed rest. She was only just beginning to get well when Stieglitz met 21-year old Dorothy Norman. The girl who incessantly hung around Alfred's gallery, asking question after question, was married to the son of the founder of Sears. Edward Norman was a deeply disturbed person who was mentally, physically and sexually abusive to his wife.

Dorothy Norman

Stieglitz initially tried to put Dorothy's at an arm's length. By the time he really got to know her, she was pregnant with her first child, a daughter. Like Kitty, Dorothy was a Smith graduate. Georgia noticed her husband's admiration of the pregnant woman, and it upset her greatly. To appease O'Keeffe, Stieglitz tried to confine his expressions of love to secret letters. "I want to incorporate knowing you into my life," Dorothy wrote back, and in order to position herself as closely as possible to the photographer, commenced work on an article about Alfred that would become a book.

Georgia was more and more skeptical of Alfred's protestations that the friendship was not intimate. In her own interview with Dorothy, she found the college graduate annoying, pretentious and transparent. When Dorothy talked with Alfred at the gallery, he told her to sit far from him, "out of danger."

Into his life at this time came Lady Chatterly's Lover, his new favorite book.

When Georgia went off to a retreat, Stieglitz finally consummated the relationship with his young admirer. His descriptions of that moment are nauseating at best: "It was as I have never dreamed a kiss could be." He wrote, "We are are one - Every day proves it more and more to be true. Dorothy, do you have any idea how much IWY." The innovative use of acronyms made the tryst appear more than it really was: at first, the couple only kept things above the belt.

This consummation pushed Alfred in the other direction. Georgia was happiest in New Mexico, and Stieglitz endlessly complained about the time she spent there away from him. She felt his pull  "It is always such a struggle for me to leave him" but New York was not her favorite place. "I think I would never have minded Stieglitz being anything he happened to be," she told a friend, "if he hadn't kept me so persistently off my track."

Alfred's photograph of Dorothy Norman from behind

Even though Alfred thought nothing of cheating on his wife, he flew into a fury whenever he suspected that she might be unfaithful. The balance of their relationship was changing, however, as Stieglitz was increasingly financially dependent on his wife's flourishing artistic career. He was determined to improve his marriage.

Stieglitz still saw much of Dorothy, who had given birth to a second child. He photographed Dorothy Norman for the first time in 1930, when she was 25 years old. Alfred bought Dorothy a camera, and told her that he loved her. Each saw the relationship as a supplement to their marriage, and sought nothing more from one another. A friend wrote to Alfred that talking to Dorothy was like "talking to a mirror in which one didn't see oneself but someone else. She presents no problem, no burden or personality to be dealt with. One can be with her and at the same time alone with oneself."


"He was perhaps the most impressive person I have ever known," Dorothy wrote later. "Yet the greatness of what he expresses was in terms of how people must be non-possessive." Alfred Stieglitz demonstrated this principle by comparing his wife and his young girlfriend in a 1932 exhibition that was the talk of the art community.

Their professional ties were solid as well. Dorothy involved herself in Alfred's fundraising efforts at his request, for a gallery that she would run in his name. This closeness rankled Georgia even more, and she sunk into a depression partly brought on by a friend of Alfred's suggesting that she befriend Dorothy.

When Dorothy could not find a publisher for her manuscript of poems, Stieglitz demanded he publish them. This final insult pushed Georgia into the arms of the poet Jean Toomer, who she invited to stay with her on Long Island.

In the spring of 1936, Elizabeth Arden asked Georgia to paint a massive mural in her salon. More flush with cash than she had ever been, Georgia rented a penthouse on 1st Avenue to work on it, a cold, drafty, beautiful workspace. There Alfred suffered his first heart attack, ending his photographic career.

Alfred was now 74 years old. In his feebleness, the arrangement with Dorothy could be nothing more than close friendship. The affair dissipated without ever having a formal break. Both had provided something the other needed, is how Dorothy saw things, something essential and something clandestine. "There was a constant grinding like the ocean," O'Keeffe wrote of her husband. "It was as if something hot, dark, and destructive was hitched to the highest, brightest star. He was either loved or hated there wasn't much in between."

In the days that followed Stieglitz's small funeral, Georgia called up Dorothy Norman. She told Dorothy to clear all her stuff from the gallery, commenting that she found Dorothy's relationship with her husband "absolutely disgusting." After Alfred's death, Georgia O'Keeffe lived forty more years.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Had to Hear" - Real Estate (mp3)

"Paper Dolls" - Real Estate (mp3)


In Which The World Just Seems To Be On Wheels

Past the Last Locust Tree

I am learning something myself — I don’t know exactly what it is — but if I did — if I could put it clearly into form it would cure you

It is easy to fall in love with the paintings of Georgia Totto O'Keeffe, but it is even easier to embrace her private correspondence. She was just the best. Her psychological insights were astonishing. She knew how to say — everything, knew how to spin an event into something more important than it was, less important than it was, put it outside of herself, bury it within. In her lifetime, she became as well known for her personality as for her paintings which so captivated and divided the art world upon their first appearance in the 1920s. O'Keeffe died in 1986 at the eight of 98.

She met her friend Anita Pollitzer at Columbia University. Anita called her "Pat" and would eventually introduce her to future husband Alfred Stieglitz.

To Anita Pollitzer

Canyon, Texas
11 September 1916

Tonight I walked into the sunset — to mail some letters — the whole sky — and there is so much of it out here — was just blazing — and grey blue clouds were rioting all through the hotness of it — and the ugly little buildings and windmills looked great against it.

But some way or other I didn't seem to like the redness much so after I mailed the letters I walked home — and kept on walking —

The Eastern sky was all grey blue — bunches of clouds — different kinds of clouds — sticking around everywhere and the whole thing — lit up — first in one place — then in another with flashes of lightning — sometimes just sheet lightning — and sometimes sheet lightning with a sharp bright zigzag flashing across it —.

I walked out past the last house — past the last locust tree — and sat on the fence for a long time — looking — just looking at the lightning — you see there was nothing but sky and flat prairie land — land that seems more like the ocean than anything else I know — There was a wonderful moon —

Well I just sat there and had a great time all by myself — Not even many night noises — just the wind —

I wondered what you are doing —

It is absurd the way I love this country — Then when I came back — it was funny — roads just shoot across blocks anywhere — all the houses looked alike — and I almost got lost — I had to laugh at myself — I couldnt tell which house was home —

I am loving the plains more than ever it seems — and the SKY — Anita you have never seen SKY — it is wonderful —


grey hills, 1942

O'Keeffe and the American writer Sherwood Anderson both shared a Midwestern background. He was a close friend of Stieglitz and it was his encounter with Georgia's work that inspired him to paint for the first time in his life.

To Sherwood Anderson

Lake George
1 August 1923

Dear Sherwood Anderson:

This morning I saw an envelope on the table Stieglitz addressed to you — Ive wanted so often to write you — two things in particular to tell you — but I do not write — I do not write to anyone — maybe I do not like telling myself to people — and writing means that.

First I wanted to tell you — way back in the winter that I liked your "Many Marriages" — and that what others have said about it amused me much — I realize when I hear others speak of it that I do not seem to read the way they do — I seem to — like — or discard — for no particular reason excepting that it is inevitable at the moment. — At the time I read it I saw no particular reason why I should write you that I liked it — because I do not consider my liking — or disliking of any particular consequence to anyone but myself — And knowing you were trying to work I felt that opinions on what was past for you would probably be like just so much rubbish — in your way for the clear thing ahead — And when I think of you — I think of you rather often — it is always with the wish — a real wish — that the work is going well — that nothing interferes —

I think of you often because the few times you came to us were fine — like fine days in the mountains — fine to remember — clear sparkling and lots of air — fine air

And the letters you have written Stieglitz the last few months have helped much over difficult days — The spring has been terrible and when we got here he was just a little heap of misery — sleepless — with eyes — ears — nose — arm — feet — ankles — intestines — all taking their turn at deviling him — one after the other — and it is only the last few days that he is beginning to be himself again — I had almost given up hope — It was rather difficult — in a way he is amazingly tough but at the same time is the most sensitive thing I have ever seen — The winter had been very hard on him — The nerves seemed tied up so tight that they wouldnt unwind — So you can see why I appreciated your letters — maybe more than he did — because of what they gave him — I dont remember now what you wrote — I only remember that they made me feel that you feel something of what I know he is — that it means much to you in your life — adds much to your life — and a real love for him seemed to have grown from it

And in his misery he was very sad — and I guess I had grown pretty sad and forlorn feeling too — so your voice was kind to hear out of faraway and I want to tell you that it meant much — Thanks


Georgia O'Keeffe

I can only write you this now because things are better.

The artist Russell Vernon Hunter had seen Georgia's painting of a cockscomb and included it in a letter to her.

to Russell Vernon Hunter

New York
Spring 1932

My dear Vernon Hunter

Your letter gives me such a vivid picture of some thing I love in space — love almost as passionately as I can love a person — that I am almost tempted to pack my little bag and go — but I will not go to it right this morning — No matter how much I love it — There is some thing in me that must finish jobs once started — when I can —.

So I am here — and what you write of me is there

The cockscomb is here too — I put it in much cold water and it came to life from a kind of flatness it had in the box when I opened it — tho it was very beautiful as it lay in the box a bit wilted when I opened it —. I love it — Thank you.

I must confess to you — that I even have the desire to go into old Mexico — that I would have gone — undoubtedly — if it were only myself that I considered — You are wise — so wise — in staying in your own country that you know and love — I am divided between my man and a life with him — and some thing of the outdoors — of your world — that is in my blood — and that I know I will never get rid of — I have to get along with my divided self the best way I can —.

So give my greetings to the sun and the sky — and the wind — and the dry never ending land


Georgia O'Keeffe

pelvis with shadows and the moon, 1945

Georgia's letters to the celebrated African-American poet Jean Toomer are among her most affecting. Her relationship with Toomer was intense, emotional, and possibly sexual. Her descriptions of the cats at Stieglitz's family home at Lake George constitute one of many highlights.

to Jean Toomer

Lake George
10 January 1934

I waked this morning with a dream about you just disappearing — As I seemed to be waking you were leaning over me as you sat on the side of my bed the way you did the night I went to sleep and slept all evening in the dining room — I was warm and just rousing myself with the feeling of you bending over me — when someone came for you — I wasn't quite awake yet — seemed to be in my room upstairs — doors opening and closing in the hall and to the bathroom — whispers — a womans slight laugh — a space of time — then I seemed to wake and realize you had gone out and that the noises I had heard in my half sleep undoubtedly meant that you had been in bed with her — and in my half sleep it seemed that she had come for you as tho it was her right — I was neither surprised nor hurt that you were gone or that I heard you with her

And you will laugh when I tell you who the woman was — It is so funny — it was Dorothy Kreymborg

And I waked to my room here — down stairs with a sharp consciousness of the difference between us

The center of you seems to me to be built with your mind — clear — beautiful — relentless — with a deep warm humanness that I think I can see and understand but have not — so maybe I neither see nor understand even tho I think I do — I understand enough to feel I do not wish to touch it unless I can accept it completely because it is so humanly beautiful and beyond me at the moment I dread touching it in any way but with complete acceptance. My center does not come from my mind — it feels in me like a plot of warm moist well tilled earth with the sun shining hot on it — nothing with a spark of possibility of growth seems seeded in it at the moment —

It seems I would rather feel it starkly empty than let anything be planted that can not be tended to the fullest possibility of its growth and what that means I do not know

but I do know that the demands of my plot of earth are relentless if anything is to grow in it — worthy of its quality

east river, new york, no. 2 , 1927

Maybe the quality that we have in common is relentlessness — maybe the thing that attracts me to you separates me from you — a kind of beauty that circumstance has developed in you — and that I have not felt the need of till now. I can not reach it in a minute

If the past year or two or three has taught me anything it is that my plot of earth must be tended with absurd care — By myself first — and if second by someone else it must be with absolute trust — their thinking carefully and knowing what they do — It seems it would be very difficult for me to live if it were wrecked again just now —

The morning you left I only told you half of my difficulties of the night before. We can not really meet without a real battle with one another and each one within the self

if I see at all

You have other things to think of now — this asks nothing of you.

It is simply as I see — I write it — though I think I have said most of it —

My beautiful white Kitten Cat is in a bad way for three days — she seems to have a distressing need for a grown real male — and these two little Kittens seem quite puzzled and frequently quite excited — and they are all running me wild — I feel like digging a hole in the back yard and burying the whole outfit

I never saw such a performance before — and right at this moment I dont need it — troubles enough with myself —

I do have to laugh when I think of your possible remarks if it had happened when you were here

I like you much.

I like knowing the feel of your maleness

and your laugh —

to Jean Toomer

On the boat from New York to Bermuda
5 March 1934

Just a little I must write you from the boat before I start into another way of living.

It has been a warm — soft — smooth — sparkling day — Sun that I seemed to have forgotten could be warm — I felt petted all over — lying out there on the deck — alone — looking at the water — It seems another world — I am glad to be moving into it — away and away from everyone and everything that seems connected with my life — everything except myself of course — it is something of a trial to take that along —

The days in the city were very good for me I think — tho I did not enjoy them particularly. I had to go shopping as I had very little to wear and the struggles with garments of various kinds — shopgirls — taxis and what not was good I think — It got me back very much into my old way of going about and doing things so that each day it seemed to tire me less

As for my connections with people — I feel more or less like a reed blown about by the winds of my habits — my affections — the things that I am — moving it seems — more and more toward a kind of aloneness — not because I wish it so but because there seems no other way. The days with A. were very dear to me in a way — It was very difficult to leave him but I knew I could not stay —

east river from the shelton, 1928

The city was cold and windy — snow as I never saw it there — the harbor all floating ice

My old sense of reality seems displaced and I cannot quite anchor a new one — What you write me of your eye and your cold bothers me — particularly since I have not heard again — I imagine you got a cold and got sick just because things seemed too difficult for you — or I am wrong.

Anyway it bothers me — particularly as I seem to be treating myself very well — taking myself to the sun

It all makes everything seem so awry and fantastic

Someone skidded into my parked car before I left Lake George and did $35.00 worth of damage to the side of it — Luckily I was insured

I hope you are better

You must know that my coming out here to these toy islands on the glassy green blue sea is only an evasion — I do not look forward to it — do not like it that I come for any such reason but that is the way it is

I will write you of the life when I get to it — The circumstances are bit odd to say the least

In the meantime I hope you are better and busy at something —

radiator bulding - night, new york, 1927

Cady Wells was an aspiring artist who decided to become a painter upon arriving in New Mexico in 1932. After O'Keeffe offered a slight criticism of one of his works - "maybe you fooled yourself a bit because it was so handsome" - he offered to throttle her. She apparently took no offense:

to Cady Wells

New York, late February 1938

Dear Cady:

No — Im not annoyed with you — and I dont care anything about your manners one way or the other — Your letter seems very normal and I like it that you are angry tho making you angry or whatever I did to you was not my wish or intention — I knew when I wrote that I was hurting the artist in you and I like it that you kick back and spit at me. It isnt that I have any particular liking for being treated that way but I like the artist standing yourself — believing in his own word no matter what anyone may say about it. Believing in what one does ones self is really more important than having other people pat you on the back. There really isn't any reason for you to be so annoyed with me that you want to choke me for saying that your things are very good and will see — I dont see anything so awful about that remark — It simply means that I think you are keyed in a way with your time so that people will like what you do. The same thing could be said of me — I don't consider it a remark either for me or against me. It just happens to be a fact. — And as long as you make perfectly clear without actually saying it that you dont care what I think anyway — I cant imagine why you want to choke me — why bother — I very much doubt its being worthwhile. I am glad you have had such a good winter.

Maybe it will please you while you are thinking unpleasant things about me to think to yourself that my winter has not been so good —

You can say to yourself gleefully — serves her right!

However — it is pleasant enough now — a week of lovely spring sun — my hedge is all turning green and I am feeling fine again —

Wonder what we can fuss about next — probably everything.


pedernal, 1945 O'Keeffe met the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright when she received an honorary degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1942. She would later refer to him as "one of my favorite people of our time."

to Frank Lloyd Wright

On the train from Chicago to New York
May 1942
Thursday afternoon

Dear Frank Lloyd Wright,

I wish that I could tell you how much the hours with you mean to me — I've thought of you most of my waking hours since I left your house and I assure you that I left with a keen feeling of regret

Last night in the hotel in Chicago — my sister gone on to Cleveland to meet her husband — I got out your book. I read the part marked with the red line at the end — then started at the beginning and read to the end of the first evening — stopping often to think about it — always relating what you give me to painting — to what I want to do — and you may smile when I say to you that I thought seriously of taking the train back to Madison to visit you again — I thought too — if I had offered you one of my best paintings years ago — maybe you would have taken it — I remember that even then — so long ago — that was what I wanted to do even tho I did not know you as I do now — I felt that I should offer you my best but I knew Alfred would make a great stir if I started doing things like that —

I have always said to him that I think I should give things away — that it would be alright — and he always says — "Yes — it would be if you were alone — but it wouldn't be while I'm around"

Since I visited you I know that my feeling was right for me. Two together aren't the same as one alone —

As I think over this whole trip — the hours with you are the only part of it that I feel really add to my life —

I salute you and go on to the second evening of your book with very real thanks

Will you give a very quiet greeting and thanks to the beautiful wife


Georgia O'Keeffe

It was Anita Pollitzer who encouraged Georgia to become involved in the cause of women's liberation.

to Eleanor Roosevelt

Mrs. Franklin Roosevelt
29 Wash. Sq. W.

Having noticed in the N.Y. Times of Feb. 1st that you are against the Equal Rights Amendment may I say to you that it is the women who have studied the idea of Equal Rights and worked for Equal Rights that make it possible for you, today, to be the power that you are in our country, to work as you work and to have the kind of public life that you have.

The Equal Rights Amendment would write into the highest law of our country, legal equality for all. At present women do not have it and I believe we are considered — half the people.

Equal Rights and Responsibilities is a basic idea that would have very important psychological effects on women and men from the time they are born. It could very much change the girl's idea of her place in the world. I would like each child to feel responsible for the country and that no door for any activity they may choose is closed on account of sex.

It seems to me very important to the idea of true democracy — to my country — and to the world eventually — that all men and women stand equal under the sky —

I wish that you could be with us in this fight — You could be a real help to this change that must come.


Georgia O'Keeffe

near abuquiu, new mexico - hills to the left, 1941 to Cady Wells

Abiquiu, early 1940s

Cady — it is Monday night — and I must write you as you did not come because I have thought so much you — to you. I really did not think you would come but I hoped you would — I wanted to walk through my world here with you — up to the cliffs — the bare — open space — then back down another area where the water drains and there are trees and big bushes — tonight — at sunset I walked alone out through the red hills — I thought of you — wished you were with me but I get a keen sort of exhilaration from being alone — it was cold enough to wear a woolen jacket — I walked some distance — then climbed quite high — a place swept clean where the wind blows between two hills too high to climb unless you want to work very hard — I didn't want to climb so high — it was too late — but from where I stood it seemed I could see all over this world — When the sun is just gone the color is so fine — and I like the feel of wind against me when I get up high — My world here is a world almost untouched by man — I feel that your world out there has been colored by the soul of the Mexican

— I really dont know why I should so much wish you to walk with me through what is just outside my door — unless it is that I think it almost the best thing to do that I know of out here — it is so bare — with a sort of ages old feeling of death on it — still it is warm and soft and I love it with my skin — and I never meet anyone out there — it is almost always alone — I wanted you to walk through it with me like I wanted you to go to hear Marian Anderson sing — it is one of the best things I know of — Well — you did things you really wanted to do I am sure — the days must have gone very fast. I did not realize till this afternoon when I counted up the days on my fingers that you must be leaving either today or tomorrow — It was very good to see you — I have really become very fond of you —


Although the following letter is undated, it was likely sent around the time of the second world war.

to Cady Wells

On the train from New York to New Mexico

Saturday morning


I am in the beautiful country — our beautiful country — It is quite green — cloudy — and very cool — And Oh Cady — how I love it — it is really absurd in a way to just love country as I love this — I think of you and I wish for you to return to this soon

I'll always be having that in my head and in my heart for you hard


You can find more of Georgia O'Keeffe on This Recording here.

I feel a sort of fury when you say that you wont succeed I want to shake you to your senses shake such an idea out of you for always Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant — There is no such thing — Making your unknown known is the important thing  

letter to Sherwood Anderson, 1923

"Under the Weather" - Book Club (mp3)

"Ain't Gonna Drink No More" - Book Club (mp3)

"Tell Me You Don't Tell Me Lies" - Book Club (mp3)

black abstraction, 1927


In Which I Haven't Found Anyone Yet Who Likes To Live Like We Do

She Could Cure You

She was famous when I met her, but that did not matter. She did not know who the celebrities were. She did not care for famous people. Once while traveling in France, her friend Mary Callery wanted to introduce her to Picasso. She said, "But Mary, I don't speak French and he doesn't speak English. What would be the sense in meeting him if we couldn't speak!"

- Jack Cowart

The writings of Georgia O'Keeffe appeal to every good-natured soul looking for somewhere to nest.

My spring has been much better than every travelling springs of the last two years — I have been working — or trying to work my garden into a kind of permanent shape... At the moment I have three rose bushes so full of red and yellow roses that they look on fire — they are really astonishing — You would really laugh to see them — two are very tall — the other smaller — It is a rose that is the reddest red on top and yellow underneath — then sometimes a few spots that are deep butter yellow — and an odd iris — dirty lavender petals reaching up — a pale lavender mixed with yellow that greys it and yellow petals mixed with a little lavender drooping down — very handsome — There are lots of ordinary colors too — many kinds. Well — that’s my life


I do not like the idea of happiness — it is too momentary — I would say that I was always busy and interested in something — interest has more meaning to me than the idea of happiness.

Dear Anita

— aren't you funny to wonder if I like your letters. I was walking up from the little bandbox post office with the mail under my arm — reading your letter this afternoon — and when I came to the part telling what Stieglitz said about "its worth going to hell to get there" — I laughed aloud — and dropped all the things under my arm

I had gone for the mail because I had worked till — what I thought didnt count — so it wasn't any use to keep on — I read your letter twice then went for a walk with about eight of the girls — it was supposed to be a run — and they were all very much astonished that none of them could keep up with me — I can run at a jog trot almost as easily as I can walk — and most girls cant you know.

We explored woods and country and found the quaintest little deserted house imaginable with wonderful big pink and white and yellow roses climbing on it — and funny little garden effects — all surrounded by great tall pines

It would have been too cold to go without a coat if we hadn't run most of the way — whenever they had breath — so you know how great it felt

I came back and read your letter again

Anita — do you know — I believe I would rather have Stieglitz like something - anything I had done — than anyone else I know of — I have always thought that — If I ever make anything that satisfies me even ever so little — I am going to show it to him to find out if its any good — Don't you often wish you could make something he might like?

Still Anita — I dont see why we ever think of what other think of what we do — no matter who they are — isn't it enough just to express yourself — If it were to a particular person as music often is — of course we would like them to understand — at least a little — but why should we care about the rest of the crowd — If I make a picture to you why should I care if anyone else likes it or is interested in it or not — I am getting a lot of fun out of slaving by myself — The disgusting part is that I so often find myself saying — what would you — or Dorothy — or Mr. Martin or Mr. Dow — or Mr. Bement — or somebody — most anybody — say if they saw it — It is curious — how one works for flattery —

Rather it is curious how hard it seems to be for me right now not to cater to someone when I work — rather than just to express myself

During the summer — I didn't work for anyone — I just sort of went mad usually after the winter — but — now — remember Ive only been working a week — I find myself catering to opinion again — and I think I'll just stop it.

Anita — I just want to tell you lots of things — we all stood and listened to the wind way up in the tops of the pines this afternoon — and I wished you could hear it — I just imagined how your eyes would shine and how you would love it — I haven't found anyone yet who likes to live like we do —

October 11th 1915

Dear Anita

Did you ever have something to say and feel as if the whole side of the wall wouldn't be big enough to say it on and then sit down on the floor and try to get it on to a sheet of charcoal paper — and when you had put it down look at it and try to put into words what you have been trying to say with just marks — and then — wonder what it all is anyway — Ive been crawling around on the floor till I have cramps in my feet — one creation looks too much like T.C. the other too much like soft soap - Maybe the fault is with what Im trying to say — I don't seem to be able to find words for it —

I always have a hard time finding word for anything —

Anita — I wonder if I am a raving lunatic for trying to make these things — You know — I don't care if I am — but I do wonder sometimes.

I wish I could see you — I cant tell you how much I wish it. Im going to try some more — I turned them to the wall while I wrote this — One I made this afternoon — the other tonight — they always seem different when you have been away a little while. I hope you love me a little tonight — I seem to want everybody in the world to — Anita.

I put this in an envelope — stretched and laughed.

Its so funny that I should write you because I want to. I wonder if many people do.... You see — I would go in and talk to you if I could — but I hate to be completely outdone by a little thing like distance.

appended to a letter to Alfred Stieglitz

February 1st 1916

Last night I couldn't sleep till after four in the morning — I had been out to the canyon all afternoon — till late at night — wonderful color — I wish I could tell you how big — and with the night the colors deeper and darker — cattle on the pasture in the bottom looked like little pin heads — I can understand Pa Dow painting his pretty colored canyons — it must have been a great temptation — no wonder he fell

Then the moon rose right up out of the ground after we got on the plains again — battered a little where he bumped his head but enormous — There was no mind — it was just big and still — long legged jack rabbits hopping across in front of the light as we passed — A great place to see the nighttime because there is nothing else

Then I came home — not sleepy so I made a pattern of some flowers I had picked — They were like water lilies — white ones — with the quality of smoothness gone

We had a great time riding toward the sunset. He was little and dried up and weather beaten — but he likes living —

A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower — the idea of flowers. You put out your hand to touch the flower — lean forward to smell it — maybe touch it with your lips almost without thinking – or give it to someone to please them. Still — in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time... 'So I said to myself — I'll paint what I see — what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it — I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers: ‘Well — I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower, you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower — and I don’t.

I like you much.
I like knowing the feel of your maleness
and your laugh

— Georgia to Jean Toomer


I am learning something myself — I don’t know exactly what it is —
but if I did — if I could put it clearly into form it would cure you

March 1926

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