Brain Pickings

Author Archive

28 OCTOBER, 2011

My Faraway One: The Love Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz

By:

How to woo like an artist, or what the overuse of the dash has to do with finding the most generous muse.

There is something relentlessly alluring about unearthing the private letters of luminaries — young Hemingway’s missives, the illustrated correspondence of beloved artist Edward Gorey, cultural icons’ letters to their 16-year-old selves, letters to children by 1970s luminaries on the love of books. But make them love letters, and we’re on a whole different level of mesmerism. Such is the case of My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: Volume One, 1915-1933, the product of an ambitious digitization project by Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, a fine addition to these 7 favorite digitization projects in the humanities.

This exceptional volume gathers 650 meticulously selected and annotated letters exchanged between one of the most prominent couples in art history, photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946) and legendary artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887–1986), who over the course of their 30-year romance exchanged more than 5,000 letters — roughly 25,000 pages — on everything from the rich detail of their daily lives to the breathless angels and demons of their passion.

Culled by editor Sarah Greenough, these missives — sometimes sweet (“Dearest Duck”), sometimes steamy (“the sensuousness of you touching the sensuousness of me”), always profoundly heartfelt (“I love you, Dearest One, if I am capable of love”) — reveal a rare glimpse of the tender humanity behind the cultural icons and, along the way, offer a richer understanding of their creative process as artists.

Photograph of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz kissing at Lake George, 1929

Letter from Georgia O'Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz on letterhead 'Los Gallos, Taos New Mexico,' May 14, 1929

From one of O’Keefe’s spicy letters, which seem to somehow mirror the fluid, light urgency of her floral paintings:

Dearest — my body is simply crazy with wanting you — If you don’t come tomorrow — I don’t see how I can wait for you — I wonder if your body wants mine the way mine wants yours — the kisses — the hotness — the wetness — all melting together — the being held so tight that it hurts — the strangle and the struggle.

And from Stieglitz, as O’Keeffe became his photographic muse:

– How I wanted to photograph you — the hands — the mouth — & eyes — & the enveloped in black body — the touch of white — & the throat –

(As a compulsive dasher myself — sometimes to a painful degree — I found their excessive use of dashes both comforting and charming.)

Letters from Stieglitz to O'Keeffe, November 2-4, 1916

Letters from Stieglitz to O'Keeffe, November 8-10, 1916

How much we have in common. — Traits. — Both turn everything we touch into something really living — & amusing — for ourselves. — Both can laugh — really laugh — even at our heartaches… 300 years you want to live!! — I wish I could give you that as a gift –

Perhaps most poetic of all is that the couple’s romance, captured in the 600 stirring pages of My Faraway One, embodies those highest ideals of being not merely lovers but also each other’s finest muses, greatest fans and most constructive critics — which makes it as much an invaluable piece of art history as it is a personal yet universal fragment of human aspiration.

Images courtesy of Alfred Stieglitz / Georgia O’Keeffe Archive, Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library // HT ArtInfo

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

28 OCTOBER, 2011

Shel Silverstein Duets with Johnny Cash, 1970

By:

A meditation on fatherhood from Uncle Shelby.

Last week, we were delighted to discover that legendary children’s author Shel Silverstein, of The Giving Tree fame, was also a prolific songwriter, whose songs were recently — and beautifully — covered by contemporary indie icons. On April 1, 1970, Silverstein appeared on The Johnny Cash Show. After quick and playful duet with Cash on his song “Boy Named Sue,” Silverstein does a charming solo performance of a children’s song he wrote called “Daddy, What If,” prefaced by a moving aside about his relationship with his own father. Enjoy.

I’m really proud of the relationship I have with my dad, I really love him a lot.” ~ Shel Silverstein

Also of note is Silverstein’s fantastic recent posthumous anthology of 137 never-before-seen poems and drawings.

via Al Gunn

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

28 OCTOBER, 2011

Studio on Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty

By:

Labors of Victorian love, or how to make typography with spare bicycle parts.

Last year, my studiomate Erica introduced me to the wonderful Studio on Fire, a Minneapolis-based design studio, workshop, and printer crafting some of the most heart-stopping letterpress and screenprint gems I’ve ever seen. They use old-timey printing machines and techniques to produce a kind of haptic magic, the product of founder Ben Levitz’s lifelong obsession with the tactile world of analog design, who has amassed a formidable collection of vintage and antique printing presses and has mastered some of the most labor-intensive techniques, from letterpress and screen-printing to hot foil stamping and blind embossing. This month, the fine folks at Gestalten () are capturing Studio on Fire’s spark in a glorious volume titled Studio on Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty, gathering the studio’s most delightful printed ephemera — posters, flyers, wedding invitations, business cards, book covers, wallpaper, and more.

Here’s a peek at the obsessive grit the fuels the studio’s vision and process:

There’s a tactility to what we do and the creation of the design object. In a sense, that’s what print design is — good print design is objects that we remember because of visually seeing them and having a connection with them, and that’s why letter press is gonna be around.” ~ Ben Levitz

For a taste of the eerily hypnotic analog magic-making, here’s a video of how the book’s cover was made:

An absolute treat from cover to gloriously letterpressed cover, Studio on Fire: Iron Beasts Make Great Beauty is chock-full of just what the tin says and makes it hard to resist the urge to get up and make something beautiful and papery with your own two hands.

Images courtesy of Gestalten / Studio on Fire

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.