Author Dawn Tripp movingly reveals artist Georgia O’Keeffe as a woman striving to live the life she believes in in her new book, “Georgia,” an imagined story of the life of the infamous artist. The book draws readers in from page 1.
Tripp writes: “I no longer love you as I once did, in the dazzling rush of those early days. Time itself was feverish then, our bodies filled with fire … the metallic scent of the dark room, smells of sweat and linseed oil, a stain of cocoa on the dining room table. It was all smashed together back then — art, sex, life — mixed into the perfect color, every shadow had a substance, shape, and tone … My hands are cool now, the past remade and packed away. Sometimes, though, late at night the air lifts and I feel it — the faint burn of your eyes on my closed lids. Still. That sense of you rushing back in.”
The book goes on to describe the passionately complicated relationship that O’Keafe had with the recipient of the note above — her manager and husband, famed photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
This is the fourth book by the author of the Boston Globe bestseller, “Game of Secrets,” who is also the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for fiction for “The Season of Open Water.”
*The Harvard grad explains that “Georgia” has been the toughest topic she has tackled — not only because Georgia O’Keeffe was so complex, but because it took nearly a year for her to find the voice of the character.
Tripp’s journey into “Georgia” began in the fall of 2009 as she basked in the 125 paintings in the exhibit, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction,” at the Whitney Museum of Fine Art.
“I felt overturned as I moved from piece to piece, and began to draw together an entirely new understanding of O’Keeffe and her art,” Tripp explains, noting it was a century ago in 1915 when O’Keeffe, then 27, began painting abstract art in an era when few artists, much less women, were bold enough to do so.
“As I moved past the paintings, I wanted to know who was the woman, the artist, who made these works? Why was she not recognized for her sheer visionary power during her lifetime? And of course, what was her 30-year relationship really like with Alfred Stieglitz, the man who ‘discovered’ her?”
For more than a year, Tripp dove into the psyche of the woman who is celebrated as a central figure in 20th century art: “I read five or six biographies about her, and filled notebooks with thoughts and ideas because I still write longhand. I looked at O’Keeffe’s art, Stieglitz’s photographs of her, and the work of other artists in their circle. Then I started taking my own photographs every day because I was trying to see the world the way a visual artist might see the world.”
Still, the voice of O’Keeffe wasn’t speaking to her — until one Sunday afternoon in April 2010.
“It was an oddly warm spring day in Massachusetts, so I took my sons down to the river to play. They had their jeans rolled up and they were kicking around in the water and I was lying in the sun, when I suddenly ‘heard’ the first words for the novel: ‘I no longer love you as I once did in the dazzling rush of those early days.’ I remember that moment so clearly. I suddenly sat up feeling O’Keeffe’s voice inside of me. I looked around and the whole world was different. I started the book the following day.”
A sensuous 316-page work of historical fiction, available February 9, 2016, is the result.
“Fiction is a curious tool to get at a different side of the truth,” Tripp insists. “It’s what novelist Vladimir Nabokov called, ‘the shimmering go-between.’ That’s the space that I wanted to write into, the space between what took place in O’Keeffe’s life — and what could have.”
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