Not Just the Wife of Alfred Stieglitz


Considering Georgia O’Keeffe begins with a much too long slide show of the artist’s work.

Even for those in the audience unfamiliar with the paintings, an indicative selection would’ve sufficed. People audibly shifted in their seats.

Allison Hetzel (below, left) then introduces herself as she takes off her jewelry, glasses, and lipstick and pins her hair back in order to resemble her subject as much as possible. This is an appealing gesture but at odds with a low-necked jersey dress in which O’Keeffe would never have been caught. A good part of the piece is played as the artist.

The story is comprehensibly told; the quotes nicely chosen, but in an effort (I conjecture) to only introduce her subject to an audience of supposed lay people, Ms. Hetzel does little more than skim the surface. We learn nothing of O’Keeffe’s personal or emotional life, nothing of the incredibly fertile art scene in which she was nurtured or of her attraction to the southwest; nothing of the calculating, powerful, and talented Stieglitz who so affected her.

Additionally, Ms.Hetzel really needs a director. She presents herself as the kind of actress who thinks the raising of eyebrows, extending of arms or a repeatedly strident voice suffices to express emotion. The presentation comes off as one note.

Raphael Crystal’s music is, while suitably ambiguous and haunting, somnambulistic and therefore a double whammy here.

Georgia O’Keeffe 1887-1986, received art instruction beginning at a young age, in Wisconsin, Chicago and The Art Student’s League in New York. Her life radically changed in 1916 with the meeting of influential photographer, critic and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz, twenty-three years her senior. Their relationship was, by all reports, incendiary. Stieglitz left his wife to live with O’Keeffe, marrying her after his divorce. For many years, she let this dominant, selfish man control her career and life in a way her friends and family thought completely uncharacteristic of her.

A visit to Taos, New Mexico in 1929 was revelatory to O’Keeffe who began to spend part of every year there. She gradually pulled away from her husband both because of her deep connection to the place and because of a lengthy affair he was having with another much younger woman…whom he refused to give up. She eventually moved to New Mexico full time creating an appreciable body of work and dying there in the company of a protégé and lover many years her junior.

O’Keeffe is chiefly known for her erotic, mystical, evocative paintings of large flowers-

“I will paint the flower big, so you have to take time to look at it,” rocks, shells, animal bones and landscapes- partly abstract and partly representational. (Stieglitz never thought the flowers would sell.) Her work was described by critic Jed Perl as “…bold and hermetic, immediately appealing and unnervingly impassive.”

Considering Georgia O’Keeffe

Created and performed by Allison Hetzel
East to Edinburgh Festival at
59E59 Theaters
Festival ended.

July 30- September 2nd
Throughline Artists with J.J.Kandel & John McCormack Present:
Summer Shorts 4, the acclaimed series of new American one-act plays at 59E59
an impressive array of new short plays by 8 of the country’s top playwriting talents:
Roger Hedden
Wendy Kesselman
Neil Koenigsberg
Neil LaBute
Deb Margolin
Timothy Mason
Christopher Stetson Boal
Alan Zweibel

Check for details

Painting credits:
Opening image: Oriental Poppies, 1928, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches, Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum
Bottom image: in the Patio III, 1948, oil on canvas 18 x 30 inches, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

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