Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Inward to the Bones: Georgia O'Keeffe's Journey with Emily Carr by Kate Braid

In 1930, Emily Carr and Georgia O'Keeffe met at an O'Keeffe exhibition in New York. Canadian poet Kate Braid wonders what would have happened if these women had become friends and visited each other in New Mexico and Vancouver Island. The result is a fictional account of a dynamic friendship between two iconoclasts in the male-dominated world of fine art, told in a series of original poems by Braid and brief excerpts from O'Keeffe's writings.

I found the first part, Solo, a bit slow - it is the background of O'Keeffe's life up to 1930 - but the momentum picked up once the friendship - the fictional part - began. At Ghost Ranch, O'Keeffe complains that Carr can see no other colour but green: "Her eyes drip curtains of tree colour." O'Keeffe, on the other hand, sees "the bones of hills / They shimmer in the heat - / amethyst, ivory and flame." When O'Keeffe goes with Carr to paint in Tofino, the rain almost drives her mad: "In this country, by day I sip the air / and by night I float." Yet she admires the visceral drive to create that fuels Carr's emotional work: "I am brittle and thin, starving / for what feeds her."

The afterword is a quote from O'Keeffe: "Art is a wicked thing. It is what we are." A perfect end for this verse novel and an excellent summation of why art is so important to all of us.

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