Posted tagged ‘Georgia O’Keeffe’

Matrimony: Chrome, Utility, and Vision

February 26, 2010

“Matrimony” can be read on p. 117 of heart speech this (Atropos Press, 2009, ISBN 9 780982 530948)

He photographed his wife’s hand splayed across the hubcap of a tire, his wife the painter’s hand spread to cover the core of an object rather than to reveal the shape and movement of exposure. The deliberate layering and tension of light on the black gloss of the car, on the chrome between and beyond fingers, on the back of the hand that seems to be its own source of light—Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz are not necessary, yet the photo would not exist without their interplay and intention.

I was in Dubuque, Iowa, helping install an art exhibit, “Moved by the Machine,” curated by my dear and extraordinarily talented cousin Josephine Shea. Two Steiglitz photos were on display, accompanied by art devoted to the American (and in some cases, European) fascination with the automobile. There had been a cross-country road trip in which I picked up and delivered Shannon Goff’s cardboard “Dashboard”, six feet of cardboard sculpted into a larger than life, yes, dashboard, from Boston to Detroit, then collected the curator and more art and drove through Chicago to Dubuque to the museum. Two days later, I was helping to finish the installation and write labels and vinyl text while I soaked in the interplay of sculpture, painting, photography, video, and bird calls. And O’Keeffe’s hand in Stieglitz’s image hummed in me.

What did he do, drag her by the wrist from her easel and canvas out to place her hand on the car? She must not have been painting: nothing is caught in her knuckles; nothing clings to her cuticles. Yet what impatience must she have breathed to be pulled into his work when so much of her own remained to be done!

Yes, projection, projection, projection. And yet, imagine the push and pull so often written about, these two visual artists with such different creative compulsions, generational assumptions, married in spite of their individuality, partnered in spite of each wanting to lead. And so, “Matrimony”: competing arts, visions, and perceptions of the hand. For one an object to portray as an image, for the other, a tool to create images. And for both, this tension of relation between man and woman, man/woman and machine, the viewer and the viewed. The placement of the represented to be presented. What we look at tells us so much about who we are.

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