I know we often say this but the last 6 months have literally whizzed past. It now seems a little surreal that I had a walnut sized tumour removed from the left side of my brain (and it’s smaller sibling removed from the right side). Now that life is calmer and we’re coming out the other side I have to admit to being just a little disappointed that the scar isn’t a bit more “Nightmare Before Christmas” or generally more Tim Burtonesque. After all, my poor head has been through hell to get rid of the two squatters and all I physically have to show for it is the smoothest and subtlest of scars. Yes it’s long, running ear to ear over my head like the palest ghost of a slightly bizarre Alice band and don’t get me wrong it’s wonderfully neat (credit where it’s due Mr Norris). I’m truly, truly grateful that it isn’t keloid thanks to Aromatherapy Associates’ Intensive Skin Treatment oil and the many hours massaging it has helped it to heal beautifully – thank you so much darling Katie Light for introducing me to it . But I still have ‘those’ moments – well it is still early days – when my brain reverts back to being ‘wonky’ or I become ‘unfiltered’ saying something I shouldn’t. (My sister will no doubt read this and say ‘no change there then’). A couple of months ago I could point at my battered head and be guaranteed a pass but 6 months down the line that move gets me NOTHING! Because life is re-adjusting to another ‘new normal’ my friends now tell me I can no longer use it as an excuse. How quickly they forget! And you know what? I love them for it.
So a couple of days ago I took my first unaccompanied trip into London to see the Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at Tate Modern with my very, very good friend Wendy. After meeting her at Southwark tube ( I wasn’t sure I could remember the way to TM from the station – and I was right) we booked 2 for 1 tickets for the 3.30pm show. I’m not a fan of queueing to read info at galleries and the rooms were absolutely mobbed but it was definitely worth it. If the mention of her work makes you think of phallic symbols and snigger at the thought of all those ‘lady gardens’ you should really see the show. It provides great insight into the times in which she lived and worked, her creative and personal relationship with Alfred Stieglitz for whom she was both muse and wife and introduced you to subject matter beyond the iconic flowers including her time spent living in New York painting cityscapes, her skull paintings and the later abstract skyscapes inspired by the plane journeys she took in her later years.
I remember having a calendar of her work as a textile student but none of the images ever conveyed either the scale of her work or the wonderful depth of colour. You need to stand in front of her work to really, really appreciate them and once you do any printed catalogue looks flat, pale and boring by comparison. (Certainly the case with the show’s catalogue – which is why I didn’t buy one). I always thought of myself as a fan of her work and back in my art college days she was generally referred to as ‘the one who did the fanny paintings’. She didn’t however take kindly to comments that referred to her work as having sexual connotations saying:
“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small – we haven’t time – and to see 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…and when you took time…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”.
This woman really was a force to be reckoned with and many of the photographs in the exhibition taken by Stieglitz show her as a strong figure who stuck to her creative principles, basically stuck two fingers up at anyone who read sexuality into her paintings.
As someone now coming to terms with my more ‘unfiltered’ days I admire both her attitude and her work and once I read her words I saw them only as rich, beautiful, detailed, abstract, exotic but certainly not erotic. 6 months on from my op I’m doing a lot more stopping, looking and taking time to appreciate the beauty of small things.
If you’re in or around London it’s more than worth a visit but get there quickly. Georgia O’Keefe runs at Tate Modern until Monday 31st October.