Driving through the Mojave Desert and the
Kaibab National Forest at night, on my way to Santa Fe and the Georgia O'Keeffe
Museum, I saw the Milky Way for the first time in many years. A half-moon rose at
ten-thirty, with much play of backlit clouds and almost indiscernible black
hills. I observed this drama for an hour or two, steadily driving onward,
thinking, like Stanley Kubrick at a tennis match, what art could compare with
this? As I drove up to the museum I wagered with myself that O'Keeffe would
have represented the visual situation I had experienced (the hills like
drypoint against faint masses of tiny light, black light-bordered clouds
tomahawking the blurry peach half-moon, then dissipating), and I was not there
five minutes when I saw she had, in an oil of Lake George.
You can see her fully-formed art in paintings as early as 1916, and then the simultaneous unfolding of a color art and an acquisition of visual materials. Surveying her work in a very large assembly, you can assert that her tones are sharp and bright, or shaped to a bright toning. You get the joke, when there is one, among the metamorphoses of colors and tones reduplicated. Statuesque, tall delicatenesses, simple forms, direct, matter-of-fact, plain and simple. Mighty orchestrations of form, passions in purple, CÚzanne blue shadows, intimate touches. All is said of itself; Blake's Albion, pure, mighty forms, very glamorous painting. Mighty dramatics, Degas' blue pastel.