Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
This book from Whitney Museum curator Haskell, accompanying the museum's September 2009 exhibit, contains essays by Elizabeth Hutton Turner, Bruce Robertson and Barbara Buhler Lunes, each of whom examine O'Keefe's visual vocabulary in relation to form and line, and the influence of nature, Art Nouveau and decorative art movements, and the scholarly work of Arthur Wesley Dow. O'Keefe herself described her work as an attempt to make visible "intangible feelings that were beyond her conscious grasp." O'Keefe was struck by the possibility of painting music and finding the elemental forms within "seemingly simple things"; one characteristically fascinating series, called Shell and Old Shingle, progresses from fairly accurate representation to curvilinear abstracts. Elsewhere, Robertson calls O'Keefe's Jack-in-the-Pulpit series "[O'Keefe's] most complete statement of the relationship between abstraction and representation." Also fascinating are photographs by O'Keefe's husband, gallery curator Alfred Stieglitz, accompanied by excerpts from their correspondence full of personal passion and tension, but also O'Keefe's motivations, the messages she struggled to communicate, and her sense of forever falling short. Contemporary critics labeled O'Keefe's paintings Freudian expressions of sexuality and unconscious desires, in large part because of Stieglitz's marketing, but these evaluations fall flat when looking deeply at both subject and painting; Haskell and her colleagues do full justice to their subject, with beautiful, luminous reproductions and a revealing collection of work. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.