Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Toots Thielemans RIP

Toots Thielemans, Jazz Harmonica Player, Is Dead at 94

Peter Keepnews
New York Times
22 August 2016

Toots Thielemans, one of the only musicians to have a successful career as a jazz harmonica player, died on Monday in Brussels. He was 94.

The death was confirmed by Mr. Thielemans’s agency, which did not specify a cause. Mr. Thielemans, who retired in 2014 for health reasons, had been hospitalized recently with a broken arm.


That Mr. Thielemans played jazz on the harmonica was unusual enough. Even more unusual was how he first gained international attention: by playing guitar and whistling in unison.

He introduced this approach in 1961 on his recording of the wistful but jaunty jazz waltz “Bluesette,” which he wrote.



The record became an international hit, and the song was his signature. It also became a jazz standard, recorded by numerous instrumentalists, among them Chet Atkins, Tito Puente and Mr. Thielemans himself, who went on to record it several more times. It was also recorded, with lyrics by Norman Gimbel, by Sarah Vaughan and other singers.

But his distinctive sound on the chromatic harmonica was Mr. Thielemans’s primary claim to fame and, especially, to fortune.



Although his name was well known in the jazz world — he performed with greats like Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker — it was relatively unknown to the general public; his playing, on the other hand, was virtually ubiquitous.

It can be heard on the soundtracks of movies including “Midnight Cowboy” and “The Getaway.” It was featured in television commercials and on records by, among many others, Ms. Fitzgerald, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones, who once called Mr. Thielemans “one of the greatest musicians of our time.” For more than four decades, it has been heard in the opening theme music of “Sesame Street.”



Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidore Thielemans was born on April 29, 1922, in Brussels, where his parents owned a cafe. He offered various explanations over the years for how he came to be known as Toots, sometimes saying he chose the name himself and at others saying it was given to him; whatever the truth, the name was apparently borrowed from two American jazz musicians, Nuncio Mondello and Salvador Camarata, who both went by Toots.Photo

Musically inclined from an early age, he began playing the accordion at 3 and took up the harmonica in his teens. A few years later, inspired by Django Reinhardt, a fellow Belgian, he began playing guitar, as well. By the end of World War II he had become a full-time musician.



In 1949, he shared the stage with Charlie Parker at the Paris Jazz Festival, and a year later he toured Europe as the guitarist in a sextet led by Benny Goodman. He moved to the United States in 1951 and eventually became a citizen.

From 1953 to 1959, he was a member of the British jazz pianist George Shearing’s popular quintet. He mostly played guitar with Mr. Shearing, but his harmonica work was featured on at least one number at every performance. It was also showcased on the handful of albums he recorded as a leader in those years.



After leaving the Shearing group, Mr. Thielemans became a busy studio musician, even spending a few years on staff at ABC. But he remained active in jazz, with the harmonica now his main instrument. He toured frequently, and occasionally recorded as the leader of a small group, for the rest of his life.

Most of his albums presented him in a straightforward jazz context, but late in his career they took on a more international color. On “The Brasil Project,” released in 1992, and a follow-up, released the next year, he collaborated with Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil and other prominent Brazilian artists. And on the 1998 album “Chez Toots” he returned to his roots, leading a group of French and Belgian musicians in a program of French songs.



Playing a set in New York a few months after turning 80, Mr. Thielemans “seemed dazzled by his glorious sunset, and found shelter under the umbrella of sophisticated schmaltz,” Ben Ratliff wrote in The New York Times, adding: “He’s in good shape, only losing wind at the end of a long string of notes; but he finds off-centered rhythms, attaining a little bit of freedom, knocking his instrument from side to side for tremolos.”

Albert II, then the king of Belgium, bestowed on Mr. Thielemans the honorary title of baron in 2001. The country’s prime minister, Charles Michel, said on Monday, “We have lost a great musician, a warm personality.”



The National Endowment for the Arts named Mr. Thielemans a jazz master for 2009, the highest honor that can be accorded a jazz musician in the United States. “I accept this distinction with pride and emotion,” he said at the time, adding that he had only “played at music” until a Louis Armstrong record in 1940 provided “instant contamination” and changed the direction of his life.

Mr. Thielemans lived in La Hulpe, a suburb of Brussels. Information on survivors was not immediately available.



In March 2006, Mr. Thielemans was the guest of honor at an all-star Carnegie Hall tribute concert, with the pianist Herbie Hancock and the clarinetist Paquito D’Rivera among the performers. Reviewing the concert for The Times, Nate Chinen praised both Mr. Thielemans’s “exuberantly expressive” playing and his infectious spirit.

“No one stole the spotlight from Mr. Thielemans,” he wrote. “He was having giddy fun, and the feeling was contagious.”

Monday, 22 August 2016

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Rezpect

Native American protesters halted pipeline construction in Cannon Ball, N.D.
Despite President Obama banning the Keystone Pipeline proposal, the consortium of Canadian and U.S. oil companies have done a deal with separate state governments to establish a different pipeline, which they will run under the Missouri River at Bismarck, North Dakota.  If the same level of flooding that has affected Louisiana this week occurs, you could have a major disaster with the water polluted by millions of gallons of tar-sands oil from a pipe break that would damage the Missouri-Mississippi drainage system for generations.

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

Native Communities Stand Up To Proposed Oil Pipeline: ‘This Is Keystone 3’

Katie Valentine
5 May 2016

By some accounts, the Dakota Access oil pipeline seems like done deal. Iowa, the last state out of the four the pipeline would cut through to grant a permit, approved the pipeline in March, leaving the project with just one federal approval to gain. And the company in charge of the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, appears to not be waiting until that federal permit is granted: It’s already started construction on the 1,154-mile pipeline.

But for the native tribes affected by the pipeline, the fight is far from over. Tribes have written letters to government agencies, met with the Army Corps of Engineers — which is responsible for issuing the final permit for the pipeline — and have launched a campaign, called Rezpect our Water, against the pipeline. They’ve even set out on a 500-mile relay run in protest of the project.

“Even in South America and Canada, we have seen the devastation of a culture because of oil leaks and oil spills and we just don’t want that to happen here to us,” Doug Crow Ghost, director of water resources for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, told Think Progress.

The The Dakota Access pipeline, also referred to as the Bakken pipeline, would carry oil from the Bakken region of North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois. The project, which was proposed in 2014, once had a route that would cross the Missouri River upstream of Bismarck, North Dakota. But that proposal was changed, according to Earthjustice, because of worries that the pipeline would impact drinking water for the people of Bismarck. Now, the proposed route would run downstream to the reservation — despite the fact that the Standing Rock Sioux also get their drinking water from the Missouri.


A leak in the pipeline, which would cross under the Missouri River twice, could decimate water supplies for the tribe, Crow Ghost said. But it’s not just water supplies he’s worried about: There are also plants that live along the riverbank that are crucial for cultural reasons, and an oil spill could destroy them.

“There are cottonwood stands along the Missouri and its tributaries, and buffalo berries, sage, and mouse bean that we use,” he said. “There are so many different ones. I couldn’t even begin to name them.”

Crow Ghost and other members of the tribe wrote letters to multiple state and government agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Civil Works, the states of North Dakota and South Dakota, the EPA, and the Army Corps of Engineers, outlining their concerns with the pipeline. After receiving the letters, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior, and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation all wrote letters of their own to the Army Corps of Engineers, asking the agency to complete a revised version of its Environmental Assessment that looks more closely at the proposed pipeline’s impact on water sources for native communities and at concerns over environmental justice issues that the pipeline poses.

“The routing of a 12- to 30-inch crude oil pipeline in close proximity to and upstream of the Reservation is of serious concern to the Department,” the Department of Interior writes in its letter. “A spill could impact the waters that the Tribe and individual tribal members residing in that area rely upon for drinking and other purposes,” it continues. “We believe that, if the pipeline’s current route along the edge of the Reservation remains an option, the potential impact on trust resources in this particular situation necessitates full analysis and disclosure of potential impacts through the preparation of an [Environmental Impact Statement].”

Currently, the Army Corps is working to complete Environmental Assessments (EA) for the 37 miles of the pipeline’s route that are under the Corps’ control. These 37 miles include segments of the route that cross federal land, including the two crossings of the Missouri River. The rest of the pipeline route was under the jurisdiction of the states, said Eileen Williamson, spokesperson for the Omaha district of the Army Corps. If the Corps does find that the pipeline, in the areas examined, does have the potential to cause significant environmental effects, a more rigorous Environmental Impact Statement will be required. The Corps also has the ability to take the letters from the EPA, Interior, and ACHP into account when it completes its assessments and include a direct response to the offices in the Environmental Assessment, she said.

The agencies, in their March letters, also recommended that the Army Corps provide more consultation with tribes over the pipeline — the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation wrote it was “perplexed by the Corps’ apparent difficulties in consulting with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.” Williamson said that Army Corps representatives have “attended three comprehensive consultation meetings with representatives from numerous tribes,” including a meeting with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe last week.

Still, Kelly Morgan, Tribal historic preservation officer and archaeologist for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said she wished the Army Corps had consulted more with the tribe. There have been meetings, she said, but she didn’t view them as formal, government-to-government consultations — though that is how the Army Corps classifies them.

“As the tribal archaeologist, this whole area has a very rich cultural history,” she said. “There are burials out there, cultural sites, and habitation sites” that have spanned multiple generations. During one of the meetings with the Army Corps, Crow Ghost took an officer to see a burial ground that would be impacted by the pipeline, a region that’s off the property of the reservation but “is still aboriginal territory of our people.”Nobody wants their church to be desecrated, and the earth is our church.

“We want to protect that. That was a village. We hold that in high regard because of our relatives that are still buried in that area,” he said. “Nobody wants their church to be desecrated,” he added, “and the earth is our church.”

It’s with that sentiment in mind that youths from multiple tribes in the path of the pipeline set out on a 500-mile relay run last week to deliver a petition against the pipeline to the Army Corps Omaha District office. The petition calls on the Army Corps to complete an Environmental Impact Statement on the pipeline before permitting it to cross the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers.

“We are borrowing this land from our grandchildren so we need to take care of our main life source: water,” Roni Starlin, Santee Nebraska tribal citizen, and one of the coordinators of the run, said in a statement. “Without clean water we will cease to survive, thus exterminating our own existence. We are running for our future generations.”

So far, it’s not clear when the Environmental Assessment will be released — it was projected to be early May, but Williamson said there’s no clear timeline because the Army Corps needs time to go through the comments it received on its draft EA. If there’s anything related to environmental concerns in those comments, she said, the Army Corps needs to determine whether those concerns have already been addressed or still need to be. And the Corps has received a lot of comments, she said, stressing that the agency at its core was neither a proponent or an opponent of the project.

If the Army Corps does find in its Environmental Assessments that the pipeline won’t create a significant impact on the environment, and decides to grant a permit for the project, tribe members aren’t backing down. Crow Ghost said the tribe had talked about next steps if that happens, but wasn’t ready to share what they were just yet. Earthjustice and other environmental groups, including the Indigenous Environmental Network, have been working with the tribes, as have been some landowners along the pipeline’s proposed route.

“In my way of looking at this, as the tribal archaeologist, this is Keystone three,” Morgan said, adding that the Standing Rock Sioux tribe was strongly opposed to that pipeline too. “We’re just at the beginning.”

From Think Progress




Lean more and sign the petition at http://rezpectourwater.com/



Thanks to Mike Cowdrey

Friday, 19 August 2016

Dead Poets Society #5


Traveling Through The Dark by William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

John Maher's Nobody's Home exhibition at The Lighthouse, Glasgow 2016

Nobody's Home
Ex-Buzzcocks drummer John Maher photographs abandoned crofts in the Outer Hebrides – complete with sheep skeletons, tin walls and Technicolor interiors


Parallel Lines


Blue Chair Last


Waiting Room


Tin and Stone


Bedroom and Chapel, Ensay


Rust in Peace, Isle of Scalpay


TV Set


Nobody's Home, Isle of Lewis


Say Hello to: Nobody’s Home Exhibition 22 Jul – 31 Aug
Level Two

Nobodys Home - an exhibition featuring the work of photographer - and former Buzzcocks drummer - John Maher is part of Architecture and Design Scotland’s Say Hello to Architecture Programme, at the Lighthouse, Glasgow, on 21st of July. The exhibition captures abandoned crofts from across the Outer Hebrides.

At 16 years of age John Maher was recruited as a member of the punk band the Buzzcocks, and a number of chart hits followed, before the band broke up in 1981. In 2002, John relocated from his hometown of Manchester to the Isle of Harris, where he lives and works today. John’s photographs of decaying man-made objects set against a backdrop of stunning Hebridean landscapes have appeared in a wide variety of publications.

Speaking ahead of the opening of the exhibition, John Maher said, “Taking this exhibition to Glasgow is the realisation of a long held ambition. What started out as a personal project – documenting abandoned croft houses in the Outer Hebrides – has had an unexpected side effect. As a result of displaying my photographs, there’s now a real possibility of seeing at least one of the properties becoming a family home once again. Putting on this exhibition in collaboration with the team at Architecture and Design Scotland means Nobody’s Home is about more than pictures on a gallery wall. It shows that looking through a lens to the past, can help shape things in the future.”

John initially photographed in the dead of night, under the light of a full moon, and many of his night photographs involve lighting the interiors of old buildings, vehicles and boats scattered around the Hebridean landscape. In several instances he would return during daylight hours to shoot the interiors of abandoned croft houses he’d visited the night before. This was the beginning of a new way of photographing the islands, which ultimately led to the Nobody’s Home project.

As a direct result of seeing John’s images of abandoned croft houses, the Western Isles’ housing body, Tighean Innse Gall, in conjunction with the Carnegie Trust, have set in motion a plan to renovate some of the derelict properties.

http://www.thelighthouse.co.uk/visit/exhibition/say-hello-to-nobodys-home-exhibition

Pictures from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2016/aug/17/nobodys-home-john-maher-outer-hebrides-photography-in-pictures

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Back Through The Opera Glass: The Beach Boys Album Covers Project



Here's a terrific site that has links to a three part, 470 page downloadable project by Malcolm C. Searles that tells the stories behind the cover art on all The Beach Boys' albums from Surfin' Safari to That's Why God made the Radio, with contributions from band insiders, artists and designers.

It's on Facebook, but you don't have to join the Evil Empire to download it! Yay!

Check it out here:

https://www.facebook.com/beachboysalbumsleeves/

Ought to be in a book, of course...Helter Skelter Publishing maybe...

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Greg Mitchell - The Tunnels



... Song: Ghosts of The Berlin Wall by Pat Ffrench and The Orchid House Project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8qCy980CPo

http://gregmitchellwriter.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/back-cover-of-my-tunnels.html


The Tunnels
The Untold Story of the Escapes Under the Berlin Wall
Greg Mitchell

In the summer of 1962, one year after the rise of the Berlin Wall, a group of daring young West Germans risked prison, Stasi torture and even death to liberate friends, lovers, and strangers in East Berlin by digging tunnels under the Wall.

Then, as the world’s press heard about the secret projects, two television networks raced to be the first to document them from the inside, funding two separate tunnels for exclusive rights to film the escapes. In response, President John F. Kennedy and his administration, wary of anything that might raise tensions and force a military confrontation with the Soviets, maneuvered to quash both documentaries.

As Greg Mitchell's riveting narrative unfolds, we meet extraordinary characters: the legendary cyclist who became East Berlin’s most wanted man; the tunneller who had already served four years in the East German gulag; the Stasi informer who betrays the ‘CBS tunnel’; the young East Berliner who escapes with her baby, then marries one of the tunnellers; and an engineer who would later help build the tunnel under the English Channel.

Capturing the hopes and fears of everyday Berliners, the chilling reach of the Stasi secret police, and the political tensions of the Cold War, The Tunnels is breaking history, a propulsive read whose themes still reverberate today.

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1109874/the-tunnels/

Friday, 12 August 2016

Dead Poets Society #4


The Day Lady Day Died by Frank O'Hara

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I don't know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesn't even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behan's new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres
of Genet, but I don't, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Last Night's Set Lists

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Streets Of London
Need Your Love So Bad
I'll See You In My Dreams


Da Elderly: -
Shine On You Crazy Diamond
Bouquet Of Roses
You've Got A Friend


The Elderly Brothers: -
Love Hurts
Everybody Knows
You Got It
Yes I Will
When Will I Be Loved


The holiday season kicked-in with an unexpected early dearth of players, so the evening kicked-off with three songs apiece for those who did turn up. Yours truly raised a few eyebrows with my first offering, not the usual Neil song, but a Pink Floyd tune. Some new faces from Grimsby performed first as a duo, then as a trio with some awesome 3-part harmonies. The Elderlys dug out a old Hollies classic which we hadn't played for ages. Tim the harmonica maestro joined singer/guitarist Tim for the finale which included an excellent San Francisco Bay Blues.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Misery at The Blue House Roundabout, Newcastle

Newcastle City Council have put forward controversial plans for the redevelopment of the Blue House Roundabout. If they get the go-ahead - after a remarkably but not unsurprisingly short consultation period (when many people will be on their summer holiday...) - the project seems guaranteed to piss off motorists (already pissed off by the many traffic projects the council are putting into place elsewhere around the city. Did I mention the changes to the twin roundabouts at South Gosforth (see below),

the changes at Cowgate, the mess that is Gosforth High Street, the flow of traffic around the Central Station?), cyclists, nearby residents, conservationists and some local MPs.




Here's how the project will eat up great chunks of the nearby moors:


Viz co-creator Chris Donald has come up with his own solution:





Of course, Newcastle doesn't have a monopoly on this:

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe at Tate Modern, 2016 - review


Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, 1932


Georgia O'Keeffe, Tate Modern, review: 'an extraordinary show, long overdue'

Karen Wright
Wednesday 6 July 2016
 
The major retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work that opened this week at Tate Modern in London is a rare opportunity for British viewers to engage with this revered American artist. In the same season as the opening of the Tate extension Switch House, this exhibition illuminates the gallery’s determination to provide new readings of old favourites. Curator Tanya Barson has spun a new tale of O’Keeffe, showing her as a progressive artist who was influenced by photography and not “merely an observational painter”. The inclusion of photography, while interesting, again shows a lack of confidence by the institution to let a singular medium prevail.

Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II , 1930

Georgia O'Keeffe was born in Wisconsin in 1887 and died in 1986 aged 98. Anyone who is lucky enough to live to be nearly 100 has experiences that span a great swath of history. O'Keeffe lived through two world wars, 17 US presidents, the Great Depression and the subsequent migration of east to west, as well as the great drought of the 1930s. She married the great photographer Alfred Steiglitz in 1924, for whom she was a muse, posing often for him clothed as well as in the nude. He also promoted O’Keeffe in both his own gallery as well as with his extensive circle of friends. Ironically, it was he who put forward the idea that the flowers were indeed eroticised images, a reading that O’Keeffe strenuously denied through her long life.
Georgia O’Keeffe  in 1967 at the entrance of her New Mexico home, wearing a big coat, with an elk horn hanging on the wall and bones on a shelf
Georgia O’Keeffe, shot for Vogue in 1967

I start with this context to remind viewers of the long history of over-looked women artists, not that O'Keeffe was one of these. The Museum of Modern Art in New York held a retrospective of her work in 1946. Her red poppies appeared on a US postage stamp, and her New Mexico home in Abiquiui, now open to the public, still attracts a pilgrimage of worshiping tourists, both female and male. Her best-known subject matter are the large and eye-catching flowers.

Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow, 1923

O’Keeffe absorbed the landscape and language of her adopted home in New Mexico with a ferocity and a single mindedness, like that of Paul Cézanne when he painted and repainted Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Once when lost near Avignon I found that the soil of that mountain is that reddish brown seen and accepted as poetic licence in his great landscape paintings.

Abstraction White Rose, 1927

In this exhibition the paintings are arranged roughly chronologically and embrace her time spent in New York City, as well as in Lake George, where she spent summers during the early days of her marriage to Steiglitz. Her New York paintings, often created from a high perspective, encapsulate a city bathed in a dramatic night-time light. While her time spent in Lake George reflects her engagement with a verdant landscape; here, she wrote “I feel smothered with green”.
In the Patio No IV, 1948

O’Keeffe was fiercely independent and continued to be so, well into her later years. She was a hiker, going “tramping” in all weathers, visiting and revisiting sites often remote from her home. This pioneering spirit led to her preoccupations with objects and views that she personally experienced.

Dark Iris No 1, 1927

While O’Keeffe is best known for her flower paintings; closely observed blossoms. The room of these is sadly not the most powerful room here, perhaps due to loan restrictions. Some of the great blooms, including the luxurious purple iris, are not here, but there is her Jimson Weed of 1932, a painting that in 2014 became the most expensive ever sold at auction by a female artist when it was bought for $44.4m (£34.2m).

Black Place ll, 1945

Nearby are beautifully observed still lives, an eggplant, figs and an alligator pear in all their majestic simplicity. We are again told that these are a result of O’Keeffe looking at photography. I am not denying that O’Keeffe was friends with Paul Strand and Ansel Adams, as well as her relationship with Steiglitz; they did visit her and were inspired by the landscape that inspired her. But this is an artist who constantly reacted to locations with her own eyes.

From the Faraway, Nearby, 1937


O'Keeffe discovered Ghost Ranch – the property that was to become her home – in 1934, finally purchasing the house in 1940. The view from the ranch, a flat-topped mesa, became her favoured view. She painted and repainted it, saying at one point: “God told me if I painted it enough I could have it.” She also discovered the “Black Place”, another location she revisited throughout her life whilst driving through the Navajo country. These black hills, often abstracted into almost signs, recurred throughout her work became one of the locations of seriality-working through different permutations while also moving towards abstraction, the strong natural forms reduced into powerful symbols. A series of views of paintings of her front door marry the increasing abstraction of an artist such as Piet Mondrian with the observation of Claude Monet, quite a feat for a woman in the early 20th century.
O’Keeffe in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1960

Comparing these to Monet’s serial haystacks is an obvious connection, but I think that Mondrian’s voyage toward abstraction is more apposite. Mondrian’s trees of the early 20th century evolve into a different form of rigorous geometry, while O’Keeffe's sketchy paintings of cottonwood trees are aiming for a different essence of abstraction, one more akin to Canadian artist Emily Carr, who O’Keeffe met, and to the theosophy, serial and spiritual reading of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint.

Autumn Trees-The Maple 1924

I have been lucky enough to have visited the area where O’Keeffe worked and observed the wide skies and flatness of the landscapes. Walking in the arroyos, near her ranch, one discovers lying on the surface the sun-bleached skulls as well as artifacts of abandoned tribes. Not surprisingly, O’Keeffe was drawn to them, exploring and layering them along with other imagery, and some of these paintings look just wrong. Mule’s Skull with Pink Poinsetta (1936), an odd painting, reflects O’Keeffe's continued exploration of themes mashed and layered together. A group of depictions of native American dolls, Kachinas, sit strangely ill at ease with the landscapes ranged nearby. O’Keeffe travelled to Mexico to meet Frida Kahlo, who collected votive paintings, and Diego Rivera, and this group seems to mirror this interest.

New York Street with Moon, 1925

O’Keeffe was perhaps the first artist to paint the view seen from an airplane; her aerial shots of fluffy clouds and the horizontality of the sky produced from memories of her flights from New York City to Santa Fe. Again this is credited to her husband’s photographs of the sky and clouds, but when you stand in front of her Sky Above the Clouds III you can see the painterly licence that O’Keeffe adopted, making this painting much more memorable then the Steiglitz photographs, lovely though they are.

Georgia O’Keeffe photographed by Ansel Adams in 1937 

There are many criteria as to what makes an artist great and one is how influential their work is on others. There is no doubt that the American painter Agnes Martin looked closely at O’Keeffe. It is not just their physical proximity (Martin landed in Taos when she moved west from New York City); it is the reaction to the rigorous landscape of place and the strong horizontality of the land and the sky. I was once told an anecdotal story about Martin that she always painted with the lines running down to avoid drips, but then displayed them horizontally.

From the River – Pale, 1959

This is an extraordinary show, a collection of nearly 100 works celebrating a woman artist, long overdue in this country, the last being in 1993 at the Hayward in London. Why do I feel churlish? Perhaps because in trying to make O’Keeffe seem progressive there is the constant intervention of male artists – even great ones – that seem unnecessary.

Oriental Poppies, 1927

Georgia O’Keeffe was a role model for many women artists. One could say there was a man behind her early success – Steiglitz did as much as he could for his muse, though she lived apart from him for many years. She was a woman who plowed her own furrow and this is clear in the haunting and revealing portrait of O’Keeffe by Anselm Adams taken in 1937 from the back, the perspective of sky and land and horizon spread out in front of her. I think that a quote from her sums up this rewarding if flawed exhibition: “A woman who has lived many things and who sees lines and colours as an expression of living might say something that a man can’t – I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore – the men have done all they can do about it.”

The Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition continues at Tate Modern in London until 5 October.


http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/georgia-okeeffe