It’s Twelve past Twelve

…And my partner is still writing our project.

You guessed it, he’s a he, and I’m me.  A woman writer in the twenty-first century still dealing with issues of,  “Hey, hold on there! Where the heck do you think you’re going so fast?”

Guys don’t get it, just like in regular life.  I mean after all, my partner is also my partner.  No we’re not married or we’d be called the Roses.  Nope, we live together mostly in bliss … until it’s time to write.

The problem is that I’ve always detested back seats. Writing since seven years old and having raced cars and torn up the pavement with my Kawasaki (motorcycle), playing the dutiful, soft–spoken, smiling doll – mouth only opened when required – is damned near impossible.  So I’m percolating, rather than collaborating.

Okay: I kinda expected a Dashiell Hammett experience – you know,  William Powell and Myrna Loy doing their thing in The Thin Man series.  Interestingly, that partnership so perfect aired in the late ’30’s.   Nick and Nora Charles and of course,  Astor the pooch and Mrs. Astor.   The perfect San Francisco family for hard-boiled detecting.

Yet here we are in 2011 and getting my dearest to acknowledge my Noraness as a necessity rather than a safety net, mothering role is frustrating.  The voyeur in me smiles as I look up over my Macbook at him, enjoying himself writing for both of us while I write this.  Will he run out of steam? Hardly.   He’s a Scorpio.   Maybe that’s it.   The sign so secretive, we’re not sure who those born under it are and if they really exist.

So what I’ve done is this: I’ve started three screenplays in the creative hours I’ve been hopped up to write, but left waiting.   I know what you’re thinking . “Hopped up”,  she said.  “Wonder on what?”

On adrenaline, that’s what; caused by my co-conspirator in the adventure of screenwriting.  Yes, it works for me.  It builds up,  all those feelings,  sending me in new directions discovering new and exciting angles, as I sit here seemingly percolating — I’m fearlessly creating,  deeply exploring and richly incubating  — in my mind’s sky!

Nice!

Thank you partner, for sharpening my edges, bringing my blood to a boil, and causing me to discover pure gold!

What a process. Gotta love it!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Per•i•pe•tei•a

the you that is whole and roundIn Literary works, a complex plot implies a reversal of intention or situation and recognition.  Reversal of situation is a change from which the action veers round to its opposite.  Recognition is a change from ignorance to knowledge.  Both these parts of the plot turn upon surprise.  If peripeteia is a sudden and unexpected change of fortune that swiftly turns a routine sequence of events into a story worth telling, then how can you use your moment of ‘falling round’ into a personal demonstration of magnificence?

According to Aristotle, Perepetia is the fatal working of the plot to result the opposite of that intended. For example events do not turn up according to the intentions of expectations of the hero. They move in an opposite direction to his intention.  In our daily lives we could see this as those events that shake us to the core, and force us to question everything that we thought we knew, abandoning the ‘smaller’  for the ‘larger’.  It’s any point in which we find ourselves standing on unfamiliar ground.

The model of the Nine Consciousness is particularly freeing, explaining how one may transform the pain associated with seemingly unconquerable pain.  It is the model by which mythologist, Joseph Campbell, based his foundation for “Hero of a Thousand Faces.”

From Luke Skywalker in “Star Wars” to Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott‘s “Alien” the heroes journey replicates our own drama played out on the stage of life, and if done well,  to a rousing,  standing ovation.

Cause and Effect  and

the Nine Consciousnesses

Cause and Effect

As we go about our daily lives, in every single moment, we make causes in the things that we think, say and do.  Just as there is a Law of gravity,  Mahayana Buddhists illuminate the existence of the law of cause and effect, which explains that when we make a cause, the anticipated effect of that cause is stored deep in our lives, and when the right circumstances appear then we experience the effect.  This concept of cause and effect is at the heart of Buddhism, and the characters for ‘renge’ in Nam-myoho-renge-kyo mean the simultaneity of the internal cause and the internal effect. This means that, through chanting, we have made the cause for our Buddhahood, and the effect of it exists simultaneously with that cause. By chanting we are directly causing our Buddhahood to appear.
‘Renge’ literally means ‘lotus flower’, which is a beautiful plant that floats on the surface of water and its beauty is nourished through its roots in the mud. This is a metaphor for our lives. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo uses the `mud` in our lives to enable us to reveal our highest life-state.
But the Lotus flower is significant for a second reason. It is a plant that flowers and seeds at the same time. It beautifully illustrates the profound working of life where the effect is simultaneous with the cause.
An example of the way Buddhism views cause and effect might be of a young person going home to spend a weekend with their parents. They have a blazing row before the end of the weekend and the young person leaves. In Western society we tend to see the blazing row as the cause and the young person leaving the effect. But Buddhism focuses attention on the internal cause and effect. So it may be that the internal cause turns out to be that the young person disrespects their parents, at quite a deep level, perhaps without realising it. The effect, which is simultaneous with this cause is the state of hell, and it is this that is triggering the arguing. This example could equally be the other way round, with the parents doing the disrespecting. It is the internal cause and effect, which a person who chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo can change, replacing their internal feelings with respect.
Through the simultaneity of cause and effect we can cause our Buddhahood or enlightened nature to appear. To help us gain a clearer understanding of what Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is we need to appreciate the nine consciousnesses. The nine consciousnesses can be thought of as different layers of consciousness, which are constantly operating together to create our lives. And as we progress through explanations of these consciousnesses the significance of the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect should become apparent.
 The Nine Consciousnesses

1.  Touch
2.  Taste
3.  Sight
4.  Hearing
5.  Smell
7.  Subconscious/Limited Egoistic Self
8. Karma storage
9. Buddha nature/Enlightened Universal life force / Nam-myoho-renge-kyo 

The First Five:

The first five ‘consciousnesses’ are our basic senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, which we use to take in information from outside ourselves in order to understand what is going on in the world. Imagine the moment of birth. The baby at that moment is aware of sound, of smell, touch, taste and sight. Like the baby we become attached to the world to such a degree that, for many, the world in all its complexities continues to hold our attention and we remain ignorant of the working of the deeper ‘layers’ of consciousness.

The Sixth

Eventually the baby grows and learns that what it is seeing is, say, ‘blue’ or what it is feeling is ‘hot’. This is the sixth consciousness or the mind as we are used to thinking of it, which functions to enable us to make sense of what is coming to us through our senses. It is primarily through the interaction of these first 6 consciousnesses that we perform our daily activities.

The Seventh

The seventh consciousness is directed towards our inner, spiritual world. It is in the 7th consciousness that the conditioning we experience as we grow up is stored. It is through this consciousness that we have our sense of who we are, our gender, our national identity and so on. Attachment to a self distinct and separate from others has its basis in this consciousness as does our sense of right and wrong. We might see the appearance of various therapies and counseling in the West as a response to the desire on the part of many to free themselves from some of the conditioning that has taken place in life and which is stored in the 7th consciousness.
Western culture really only has an understanding of the first 7 consciousnesses.

The EighthThe concept of an eighth consciousness storing all our internal causes and internal effects (our karma) is generally not in use in daily life. And the concept of a ninth consciousness being the fundamental workings of life itself throughout the universe is definitely not part of our culture! The ninth consciousness in Buddhism is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or the Law of life

The eighth and ninth consciousnesses are operating at the level of the fundamental interconnectedness of all of life. If our eyes could see our karma and the 9th consciousness we would see all of life as deeply interconnected. The perception created in the 7th consciousness of a fixed and isolated self is thus false. This is one of the deep seated delusions regarding the nature of the self. The narrow ego of the 7th consciousness resists life expansion. A human life which is ‘touching’ the eighth consciousness is cracking the shell of the limited ego and becoming open to its greater self. The seventh consciousness is also the seat of the fear of death. Locked in the 7th consciousness the narrow ego assumes it will perish and cease to exist at death. Such a life is unable to see that the eighth consciousness is an enduring flow of life energy that will migrate between lifetimes.
The delusion that the 7th consciousness is one’s true self is fundamental ignorance, a turning away from the interconnectedness of all beings. It is this sense of oneself as separate that gives rise to discrimination, destructive arrogance, and the acquisition of material possessions and wealth that far surpass what any one human being could possibly need.
The eighth consciousness is a vast storehouse of all the causes and effects, which affect the way that the world comes to us. It is where we accumulate our karma, both positive and negative. It accounts for our looks, our circumstances, our reactions, our good or bad fortune, our work, our relationships, our health, in fact, every aspect of living. As causes are made in thought or word or deed, so internal effects are stored in this level of consciousness.
Because the internal cause and effect exists deep inside, on a level of life, which is interconnecting with all of life, eventually external causes and effects appear in response to the karma in the eighth consciousness. It is the existence of the eighth consciousness that explains the great differences which exist between say ‘identical’ twins in their experiences of life. It explains how things that happen to a young child appear to have no cause in this lifetime. It is this eighth consciousness or karma, which migrates between lifetimes. It is our karma from previous lifetimes which we are born with, which then causes the world to come to us on the basis of our internal causes in all the different aspects of life.
If life were only these eight consciousnesses things would be fatalistic and bleak. One cause would create its effect, which would condition all future causes and their effects and so on, leaving us stuck on a particular path with particular tendencies. We cannot gain access to this 8th karmic consciousness with our minds, which are too shallow. Will-power and effort alone will not enable us to change deep-seated karmic tendencies.
 
The Ninth Consciousness
Buddhism teaches that there is a ninth consciousness, which Nichiren Daishonin identified as the Buddha nature,  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or Life-force.   It is the basis of all life’s functions and is known as the ‘amala’ or ‘fundamentally pure’ consciousness, shared at the most profound level with all life. As we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, so life-force comes from the ninth consciousness, purifying the internal causes and effects that lie in the eighth, and improving the way our sixth and seventh consciousnesses function. We start to create new causes in the eighth consciousness, based not on the tendencies that we have developed after making many different causes, but on the life-state of the Buddha, and therefore filled with courage, compassion and wisdom. Another benefit of this process is that we start to see our lives with the eyes of the Buddha, enabling us to see our karma in its true light. As we see it, so it becomes easier to challenge it and change it.
To use an analogy, the emergence of the world of Buddhahood is like the rising of the sun. When the sun dawns in the east, the stars that had shone so vividly in the night sky immediately fade into seeming non-existence. If they disappeared, it would go against the principle of causality. But just as the light of the stars and the moon seems to vanish when the sun rises, when we bring forth the state of Buddhahood in our lives we cease to suffer negative effects for each individual past negative cause made. In other words, this does not deny or contradict general causality. General causality remains an underlying premise of Buddhism. But it is subsumed by what might be termed a ‘greater causality’. This greater causality is the causality of attaining Buddhahood or Enlightenment. It is the causality of the Lotus Sutra and the Mystic Law.
Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo then liberates us from our negative or unhappy karma, and enables us to make causes and create lives that accord with our greatest dreams both for ourselves and for the society in which we live. The best causes we can make are those that contribute to kosen-rufu, and help people to establish Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in their own lives, enabling them to reveal their own Buddha nature.
From this perspective, peripeteia may be seen as the point where we are presented with an opportunity to transform from within,  rather than viewed as ‘tragedy.’
9th consciousnesses chart
Posted in anxiety, Art, Literary, Screen Writing | Tagged , | 4 Comments

If Every Hero Has An Oracle, So Must We…

Every hero has two things:

  • An oracle
  • A mentor

The hero uses the oracle to connect with the power from which he is the mentor, as a guide. Much like in The Matrix, and excellent model for real life.  The One (Our example hero) Neo, had “The Oracle” as his touchstone to enlightenment, and a mentor  (Morpheus) to guide him through his adventure and support his needs for self-discovery in order to overcome the obstacle (Smith – the “glitch” – the challenge).  We also have an Oracle – it’s an inside job.  As writer’s we are tasked with the same journey, if not the same kind, as our characters.  No wonder it’s the writing, itself that matters most.
Image

There’s always a choice to be made, one that starts the adventure from which the hero can never turn back…

Image

The Hero needs a Mentor – really badly:

The mentor teaches his protege how to use the tools with which he is equipped –in fact, he may point out that the hero has it in the first place.  Then the mentor teaches the hero how to use his talent.  He convinces him again and again to believe in himself.  He re-energizes the hero when the Antagonist tries to rob him of his life-force – to stop him from gaining his goal.  The Antagonist challenges the hero’s fears, while the mentor shows him how to develop confidence and skills.  He trains the hero for battle.

And every Hero needs an adventure, a journey which always starts with a challenge and a question from his/her “yang.” Will Shakyamuni find the answers to the question of life, and live to tell about it?  Will Neo escape being killed by Smith?  Will we overcome—insert blank –?

And remember when going for something of great good we will be challenged immediately.
Imagine someone or something will be there ready, blocking the gate to enter the adventure to test the hero’s worthiness; an obstacle that keeps you from “entering.” In life, it is the same.  You set out for a goal, but the first sign of trouble sends us running.   Or do we buckle down to employing the strategy of the Lotus Sutra, for example.

Posted in Screen Writing | 2 Comments

Travelling through the stars, dancing in the light — until we meet again, my friend.

Image

Anita had an exquisite way with words and always came from truth, whether hard or soft as a pillow. Through personal dialogue and encouragement, and the very intimate meetings where she facilitated our Sophia group, a meeting of minds discussing the books, “The Human Revolution” and our role in society.  I not only gained new  insight into the writings of Daisaku Ikeda, but learned to implement them, bit by tiny bit, throwing them up against all challenges that seemed larger than life, as they always seem.   Anita called it, “How to eat an elephant in bite-sized pieces.”

She constantly gave me opportunities to express the talent she was convinced I had — more so than I was, always “shoving me into my own light.”

“Stand in your light and own your power! “, she’d say.

She not only said that, but showed me how by being the mighty, flapping wings behind those words, manifesting them in reality. Her grasp of the gosho, letters from the 13th century reform priest, Nichiren, and her way of explaining them on a cellular level was magnificent to experience!  And she loved to say shocking things just to prod me into loosening any tight, prudish grips I had on how to behave for society’s approval. There was nothing too taboo to discuss; in fact, Anita seemed to appreciate the unusual. She turned everything on its head, and made sense of it all.

Saying goodbye to a friend entails, well, saying goodbye.  But this event choreographed for Anita unfolded in a rich and opulent, sensory experience — hopeful and uplifting, bittersweet, and at times hilarious.  There is no way to truly express the profundity of this gathering,  attended by a splendid array of family, friends, performers and admirers.

When I first met Anita, I instantly felt part of her family, as have so many. Together, at the memorial, we were all transported to a place where the eternal magnificence of Anita and the love she shared graced us all with an eternal kiss of light. Like walking on a golden chord, through a kaleidoscope of light laden with transformative powers.  I felt like we had all joined hands in one, big, ceremony in the air. I will never forget it.

Thank you, Anita. Thank you, thank you! I see now how it’s done!
Image

Posted in Screen Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Paint it Big!

I thought I knew Georgia O’Keeffe. C’mon– big, interesting and sexually suggestive flowers, right?

My idea of who this ground-breaking artist was came from a story told in my writing class about her fleeing her art studio shed, where she painted freely and in the nude, until realizing that a bunch of nosey children had discovered her secret garden shed and were “peeping” at her. She abandoned her secret garden shed never to return.

But there’s more to O’Keeffe than that. In fact, her story parallels that of another powerful, female painter — Frida Kahlo, one of the boldest female artists in ant century.

Georgia O’Keeffe also continues to astonish. Several recently uncovered letters to her longtime lover Alfred Stieglitz were recently published as part of a new exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art.   As Lifetime’s recent biopic on Georgia O’Keeffe reveals, the artist had a steamy, on-again-off-again relationship (and later marriage) with photographer and modern art promoter Alfred Stieglitz.

Further insights into their relationship come from the letters, published in the catalog for the Whitney’s current show, “Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction.” These exchanges provide a rare glimpse intothe private lives of these art world superstars.

Art and Other Affairs
Stieglitz was in his 50s and married at the time he met O’Keeffe, who was 29. A friend had sent Stieglitz some of O’Keeffe’s artwork which he displayed without permission. O’Keeffe went to New York to confront him.

And that’s when the sparks began.

O’Keeffe’s letters to Stieglitz began tentatively (“Words and I are not good friends” she wrote in January 1916), but over time they became increasingly charged with sensuality and desire. “I am on my back — waiting to be spread wide apart — waiting for you,” she wrote in 1922. (Keep in mind that Stieglitz didn’t divorce his wife until 1924.)

Marriage on the Rocks
Stieglitz’s relationship with O’Keeffe was professional as well as personal. He often photographed O’Keeffe, sometimes in front of her art to emphasize their sensual forms, sometimes in the nude, and several of those images were displayed at an exhibit at the Anderson Galleries in 1921, creating instant buzz for the young artist.

Before abstract art became trendy, O’Keeffe embraced it with broad strokes and bold colors, saying, “I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way — things that I had no words for.”  Stieglitz and O’Keeffe married in 1924, but he cheated on her with other women and she often retreated to Santa Fe, N.M., where she could focus on her art and distance herself from Stieglitz. While there, their relationship continued until Stieglitz’s death in 1946 — the same year she became the first female artist to have a solo show at the Museum of Metropolitan Art.

Perhaps she loved the tumultuous ups and downs of her yo-yo relationship with Stieglitz. Or maybe she appreciated the impact he had on her artistic career.  It doesn’t sound that different from the Hollywood marriages of today. In more ways than one, Georgia O’Keeffe was a woman ahead of her time.

Alfred Stieglitz,  Georgia O’Keefe 1933, collection of George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and FilmAlfred Stieglitz, [Georgia O’Keefe] 1933 (gelatin silver print)

In almost every way she reminds me of Frida Kahlo. They could swap biographies, if not artwork, and definitely husbands. Diego Rivera could have easily been Alfred Stieglitz if Kahlo had not allowed herself the luxury of becoming heart-sick. Maybe she was tired of that, particular battle. Yet her struggles were not in vain, and her name and work lives on.

The sharp departure between the women’s outcomes reveals itself in their story endings. While Kahlo died after being hospitalized and heart-broken by her husband, Rivera, sleeping with her arch-enemy as she lay dying, O’Keeffe soared as her husband declined. Frida had been a revolutionary, herself, fighting for the equality of Indians in Mexico. Frida’s father was German, and her mother, from Mexico.

Frida and Diego, nicknamed “The Elephant and the Dove”.

Georgia O’Keeffe outlived her lover, and on the day of his death, she became a superstar in her own right and took her place on the stage of history!

Kahlo’s work and passion are undeniable and rich with fertile genius. If the two women had met, maybe Kahlo could have enjoyed the fruits of her labor

while Diego declined, as O’Keeffe had. But that’s not how it happened for her or for Virgina Woolf.

I think it extraordinary that once in a while truly interesting people cross our paths leaving us richer for the experience one way or another.

Here are some of Georgia’s paintings with her quotes:


“Making your unknown known is the important thing.”

“To create one’s own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.”


“Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest”


“I said to myself, I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me — shapes and ideas so near to me — so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught”

 

“If I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”

 

“I know I cannot paint a flower. I cannot paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning, but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time.”

 

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”

“Georgia O’Keeffe: Abstraction” at the Whitney

Photo of Georgia O’Keeffe in New MexicoPhoto of Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico

This show should set heart’s on fire all over again. O’Keeffe’s work is tremendously enjoyable and she’s genuinely interesting as a person and an artist.  Some have been to her homes in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The goal of this exhibit is to present a different side of O’Keeffe. Rather than the sexual associations others have attributed to her work, the focus here is on abstractions and radical work from her early career which became the basis for her representational work.

Towards the end of her life she returned to these abstracted forms. This show is one of the largest O’Keeffe exhibitions ever assembled, started four years ago with five curators working on it.  Unexpected treasures came out of this show — the unsealing of letters between O’Keeffe and Steiglitz that had been sealed for 60 years. This correspondence gives us more insight into her life and her work.

Special Number 12, 1918, Charcoal on paper, 24 x 19Special Number 12, 1918, Charcoal on paper, 24 x 19″

 

O’Keeffe attended art school briefly in order to become an art teacher. She believed that art was not about representing something from the natural world but about the artist expressing her personality.  This approach came from her teacher and mentor, Arthur Wesley Dow, a pioneer in art education.  She had a desire to “speak” through her work and the charcoal works on view in the first gallery are her pure feelings translated to paper.

Art was a way for her to connect with the unknown through abstracted forms and later in her use of color. As we now know, Steiglitz was impressed by her work and his positive feedback gave her the courage to continue. In 1916 her work was shown by Steiglitz for the first time at his gallery 291.

It is interesting to note that the forms in these charcoal works come directly out of the arts and crafts movement at the turn of the century.  The forms in her charcoals establish a vocabulary that she returns to again and again throughout her career.

Blue 1, 1916, Watercolor on paperBlue 1, 1916, Watercolor on paper

In 1916 she introduced the color blue into her work and created a blue watercolor.  This exploration of one color most likely came about after reading The New Science of Color by Beatrice Irwin which suggests mastering one

color at a time.

In 1917 O’Keeffe moved to Canyon, TX to teach and added representational color. O’Keeffe was not interested in subject matter in and of itself, but as a springboard for something else.

Steiglitz showed these works and on her visit to NY, O’Keeffe met other artists in his stable including Paul Strand. After this meeting, her work became much more abstract.

Through her work she created a sensation of someone or something, not the thing itself. She worked serially throughout her career and color was her means of connecting with the unconscious.

“The meaning of a word to me is not as exact as the meaning of a color. Color and shapes make a more definite statement than words.” ~1916, Georgia O’Keeffe.

In 1918 she changed from watercolor to oil paint and she matures quickly as an artist. She uses space and color so magically the canvas seems to pulsate with life, energy, passion!

She is able to create atmospheric space as well as crisp linear space all within the same work. O’Keeffe also uses musical references in her titles around this time because she feels that music, like her paintings, can convey powerful emotions.  She moved to NY at this time and it was at this time that Steiglitz began to photograph O’Keeffe. Interestingly, there are over 300 photos of her because Steiglitz believed you could not get a sense of someone unless they were photographed over a lifetime.

These photos influenced O’Keeffe’s work in the way that Steiglitz cropped shots to make abstractions as well as the smooth velvety surface he created, she utilized these techniques in her paintings.

Alfred Steiglitz, photo of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1919Alfred Steiglitz, photo of Georgia O’Keeffe, 1919

 

In 1921 a stir was created when Steiglitz had a show in which 45 of 125 works were of O’Keeffe in various stages of undress. She was 24 years his junior and he was still married at the time.

It was at this time that the critics began to talk about her work as sexual and the photos only added fuel to the fire. O’Keeffe found this extremely insulting because the work was so much deeper and broad reaching than just being about sex. Perhaps people were confusing sexuality with sensuality.

In 1923 she began to move towards representational imagery because her abstractions were narrowly received as about fertility, womanhood, the female orgasm, etc.

Abstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on canvasAbstraction White Rose, 1927, Oil on canvas

 

O’Keeffe’s handling of paint was remarkable. She layered and softly blended colors to avoid muddied colors. She wanted the surface of her paintings to be like a skin with a feathery quality and a constant tension between the out of focus atmosphere and her crisp, sharp lines. She controlled subtle modulations of color in a brilliant way and developed a way for geometry to represent the NY skyline.

O’Keeffe never made preliminary studies for her works, she would just lay down the pencil without straying from her original idea!

Wave, Night, 1928, Oil on canvasWave, Night, 1928, Oil on canvas

 

When Steiglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe married in 1924 they spent a great deal of time upstate near Lake George.  Water imagery was something she created a great deal during this time. She took images, simplified them, simplified them again and again until they were unrecognizable. She was a phenomenal technician and her treatment of white is just like that of colors.

One pastel work entitled, Pink and Green, from 1922 caught my eye. It is a smaller piece but the color and abstraction leads and loses the viewer in the work.  O’Keeffe was most attracted to things in nature that are boundless, timeless, and eternal. Perhaps it is in this union with nature she conveys that makes O’

Keeffe so beloved as people can relate to her work.  They have experienced nature being so beautiful that words can’t describe it, only a representation of an experience can truly express it.  It was the works of O’Keeffe and John Marin that kept the gallery going with their sales. The idea of sexuality linked to her work plagued her but it also generated sales and got people talking about her.

In 1926 Cheney Brothers Silk Company commissioned 5 oil paintings for their fall ad campaign, two of which are on view in the show.  In 1929 O’Keeffe took her first trip to New Mexico as she wanted to get away from Steiglitz who had entered into a new relationship with Dorothy Norman.

After the 1923 show she wanted her work to be open to more broad interpretation and she did not pose nude for photos again; she wanted to re-frame her public persona.

Two works stand out moving between galleries:

Black Abstraction, 1927, Oil on canvasBlack Abstraction, 1927, Oil on canvas

 

The first is Black Abstraction from 1927 in which a black circle and an unidentified organic shape mingle with a small white dot at the center.  This was created after her experience of undergoing anesthesia.

Abstraction Red and Black, Night, 1929Abstraction Red and Black, Night, 1929

Abstraction Red and Black, Night from 1929 is a very small work with two vertical deep red rectangles with a black form on the left and a brown diagonal on the right.

In 1929, much to Steiglitz’s chagrin, O’Keeffe accepts a commission for Radio City Music Hall for the women’s bathroom. Unfortunately the plaster was wet and the paint did not stick, the result causing O’Keeffe to have a nervous breakdown.  She did not paint for a year and a half, her confidence so shattered that she almost had to learn how to paint again, especially the abstracts.

Black Place I, 1944, Oil on canvasBlack Place I, 1944, Oil on canvas 

This re-learning resulted in a series of predominately black and gray works of “The Black Place” about 150 miles from her New Mexico home.  She wrote to Steiglitz that she “sees him in this place.”

His mustache as the swirling hills, etc. In this sense, they can be interpreted as portraits of him. Though she begged Steiglitz to come visit her in New Mexico, he never did as he was petrified of travel.

Black door with red, 1955, Oil on canvasBlack door with red, 1955, Oil on canvas 

Steiglitz died in 1946 and in 1949 she moved to New Mexico permanently.  It is in these later works that there is a coolness and serenity that permeates through. While in New Mexico she used bones as framing devices for her abstractions. She paints her door in Abiquiu as a black square surrounded by red and golden rectangular areas, just as Frida Kahlo painted her famous home a beautiful and startling blue.

O’Keeffe developed macular degeneration which caused her to lose all but her peripheral vision causing her latest works to be more simplified, abstracted forms once again.  She had come full circle!

” I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking the time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers.”

 

” Whether the flower or the color is the focus I do not know. I do know the flower is painted large to convey my experience with the flower — and what is my experience if it is not the color?”

 

“I think I am one of the few who gives our country any voice of its own.”

 

“One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work.”

“One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt.”

 

“Now and then when I get an idea for a picture, I think, how ordinary. Why paint that old rock? Why not go for a walk instead? But then I realise that to someone else it may not seem so ordinary.”

 

“Sun-bleached bones were most wonderful against the blue – that blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.”

 

“I found I could say things with colors that I couldn’t say in any other way — things that I had no words for.”

 

“I don’t much enjoy looking at paintings in general. I know too much about them. I take them apart.”

 

“I don’t see why we ever think of what others think of what we do — no matter who they are. Isn’t it enough just to express yourself?”

 

“Wise men say it isn’t art! But what of it, if it is children and love in paint?”

 

“I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore.”

“I have had to go to men as sources in my painting because the past has left us so small an inheritance of woman’s painting that had widened life…. Before I put a brush to canvas I question, “Is this mine? Is it all intrinsically of myself? Is it influenced by some idea or some photograph of an idea which I have acquired from some man?”

“Objective painting is not good painting unless it is good in the abstract sense. A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or tree. It is lines and colors put together so that they may say something.”

“Slits in nothingness are not very easy to paint.”

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life — and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”

“The days you work are the best days.”

“You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.”

Epilogue:   A Winning Life

O’Keeffe met photographer Todd Webb in the 1940s, and after his move to New Mexico in 1961, he often made photographs of her, as did numerous other important American photographers, who consistently presented O’Keeffe as a “loner, a severe figure and self-made person.”

While O’Keeffe was known to have a “prickly personality”, Webb’s photographs portray her with a kind of “quietness and calm” suggesting a relaxed friendship, and revealing new contours of O’Keeffe’s character.  In 1962, O’Keeffe was elected to the fifty-member American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts  and Sciences in 1966. In the fall of 1970, the Whitney Museum of American Art mounted the Georgia O’Keeffe Retrospective Exhibition, the first retrospective exhibition of her work in New York since 1946, the year Stieglitz died, reviving her public career.

In 1972, O’Keeffe’s eyesight was compromised by macular degeneration leading to the loss of central vision and leaving her with only peripheral vision. She stopped oil painting without assistance in 1972, but continued working in pencil and charcoal until 1984.

Juan Hamilton, a young potter, appeared at her ranch house in 1973 looking for work. She hired him for a few odd jobs and soon employed him full time. He became her closest confidante, companion, and business manager until her death. Hamilton taught O’Keeffe to work with clay, and working with assistance, she produced clay pots and a series of works in watercolor. In 1976 she wrote a book about her art and allowed a film to be made about her in 1977.

On January 10, 1977, President Gerald R. Ford presented O’Keeffe with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded to American citizens. In 1985, she was awarded the National Medal of  Arts.

O’Keeffe became increasingly frail in her late 90s. She moved to Santa Fe in 1984, where she died on March 6, 1986, at the age of 98. In accordance with her wishes, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved “faraway”.

~ Dax

Photo credits: Georgia O’Keeffe
Originally posted in Noire By Nature on May 14, 2011

Posted in Art, Screen Writing | 2 Comments

In The Fray of Gold

It’s 8: 49 am and the gold of the day is already turning a bright white.

As I walk  through the Mystic Garden, I appreciate what is, and what’s to  come, although these shapes have not yet taken form.  These anxieties visited on most writers as fear, what business do they have in our lives?

Should I fear the inevitable, and what is inevitable anyway?  Most would answer, “Death and taxes.” I would argue that one should come before the other, “taxes and death”, but it’s apparent that taxes out live death.  Warn the family.

Today I have decided to relinquish fear.  For one, I’m already writing.  I know this because I can see the words in front of me. Always good news.

Secondly, there’s a nagging at the base of  my skull.  I suspect the thought of impending bills might do that.  Yet both these things are good.  If I’m not writing, I’m not alive.  If I’m not paying bills, I’m not alive.  Conundrum you say?

Exactly!  Life is like that.  Expect the unexpected, and timber that holding thought with faith in the best outcome. These are by no means dark thoughts, but a mere appreciation of the calm as well as the storm.  As I prepare to “observe my mind and find the Buddha within it”, I remember one of my favorite movies to date — Bladerunner. It’s not fun and upbeat by any means, but it asks the question (also the title of the book from which it’s made) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Which brings me to the idea of memories.  No matter what the event, we have a choice as to how we view and respond to incidents in the phenomenal world.  The touch and fragrance of these memories  remain with us and color our existence.  It does matter where they go after we go.  It does matter what we do and record before we go.  Words have the power to move, to encourage, to embolden, to soothe, to inspire.  Who are we to question either the calm or the storm, when both are gifts from the gods?

Today, for example, as the screenplay I’m writing with my partner advances so do the daily rain of anxieties, sometimes  falling softly. I remember that they are necessary agents that power my writing gold,  just as they power my life gold.

A few quotes from Philip K. Dick, author of  Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?:

“The true measure of a man is not his intelligence or how high he rises in this freak establishment. No, the true measure of a man is this: how quickly can he respond to the needs of others and how much of himself he can give.”
and …

“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.”
and…

“My schedule for today lists a six-hour self-accusatory depression.”
as well as…

“Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups…So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

You can hear Dick vacillating between wisdom and anxiety.  I imagine the appropriate time to go insane, as Dick’s quote suggests, is on the page. As a writer, I owe it to myself to authentically delve into the heart of first, myself and then society, on behalf of ordinary heroes we call the people.  In order to do this, I embrace all that is with solid vow in heart. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? I don’t know. But I do feel this: what we record lives, breathes and touches well after we are gone.  I feel immense gratitude for the ability to serve both ‘God‘  and mankind with a connecting touch — a breath of shared, recognized truth, recorded.

If the continuance of mankind is dependent on survival of the fittest, our ultimate goal in life seems to be working out — spiritually, that is .  To work out one needs weights.  These little challenges that so sideline us should have us jumping for joy.  They are our opportunity for a great inner workout, knocking at our door.

I keep in mind that what’s at the heart of the common man and the corporate bully is sometimes the same.  Getting others to see and feel this is a magic trick, a feat made possible by capturing and casting the golden net as we walk through the Mystic Garden ourselves.

Go boldly, and as per the meme of a certain, wonderful Sci-Fi character,
“Make it so!”


Photos: Rarindra Prakarsa
Additional credit to my partner in screenwriting mayhem, Steven Danner, for the lyrics to a rare Bob Dylan song which inspired this: http://stevendanner.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/dylan/

Posted in anxiety, Art, Buddha, Collaborating, Mystic Garden, Screen Writing, Writing Mayhem | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments