How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living by Karen Karbo
Karen Karbo provides a new take on the idea of biography with her book How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living. While the book describes much of O’Keeffe’s life, the focus is on what lessons can be learned from how O’Keeffe lived her life. Enjoyers of traditional biographies should be warned that while the book ends with the end of O’Keeffe’s life and discusses her earlier years towards the beginning of the book, overall, information is not presented chronologically. It could be easy to confuse the order of important events in O’Keeffe’s life while reading. Instead, the book is organized by important lessons: such as defy, grow, and adopt. Within the different lessons learned are descriptions of how O’Keeffe lived her own life. The author’s voice is also prominent in the text, as she relates the lessons to current times and brings in examples from her own life. While the biography definitely takes a new approach, the conversational writing style and humor make it a quick and highly enjoyable read.
Needless to say, I really loved this book. My freshmen year of college I did a research paper on O’Keeffe’s life and work. As an art student at the time, I was often told my style was just like O’Keeffe’s (mostly because I love flowers and my high school teacher challenged me to paint large, so for my portfolio I carried around a 3’ X 4’ flower). I had never really taken much interest in O’Keeffe before, but I fell in love with her work. However, the essays, biographies, and her own writings did not describe her as intimately as this book. The approach of telling her life through lessons focused on O’Keeffe as a person, not just an idol or artist. Before reading this book, I never realized O’Keeffe really wanted to have children. I learned more about one of my favorite artists of all time while reading, and I really think I can look at her more as a person than just an amazing artist. No one becomes that brilliant at one thing without giving up something else.
The only negative thing I have to say about this book is I wished it had more artwork. Each chapter was introduced with a relevant art piece, in color. However, the author mentioned many photographs and other art pieces that were not pictured. I know it is probably very expensive to print these photos in a book, but I really wish a few more had been featured. For example, she talks about how beautiful O’Keeffe was, particularly when smiling, but there is no picture of O’Keeffe in the book! Despite this, I would still strongly recommend this book to anyone interested in Georgia O’Keeffe.