Most people associate Georgia O’Keeffe with New Mexico, painted cow skulls, and her flower paintings. She was revered for so long—born in 1887, died at age ninety-eight in 1986—that we forget how young, restless, passionate, searching, striking, even fearful she once was—a dazzling, mysterious female force in bohemian New York City during its heyday.
In this distinctive book, Karen Karbo cracks open the O’Keeffe icon in her characteristic style, making one of the greatest women painters in American history vital and relevant for yet another generation. She chronicles O’Keeffe’s early life, her desire to be an artist, and the key moment when art became her form of self-expression. She also explores O’Keeffe’s passionate love affair with master photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who took a series of 500 black-and-white photographs of O’Keeffe during the early years of their marriage.
This is not a traditional biography, but rather a compelling, contemporary reassessment of the life of O’Keeffe with an eye toward understanding what we can learn from her way of being in the world.
Karen Karbo is the author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel (skirt!) and How to Hepburn: Lessons on Living from Kate the Great, which the Philadelphia Inquirer called “an exuberant celebration of a great original.” Her three novels were all named New York Times notable books, and The Stuff of Life, her memoir about her father, was a People Magazine Critic’s Pick and winner of the Oregon Book Award.
“Karen Karbo's fresh and revealing take on the epic life of Georgia O'Keeffe is both effortlessly entertaining and profoundly inspirational. As vivid and original as an O'Keeffe flower, How Georgia Became O'Keeffe offers a quirky, modern view of one of America's most iconic women.”
—Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon—And the Journey of a Generation.
“In this intimate, joyful, and absolutely fun biography, Karen Karbo shows us why artist Georgia O’Keeffe remains an inspiration for women in search of a self-determined life. I will immediately pass this book on to my fifteen-year old daughter so that she can learn from this unforgettable original: gifted, independent, daring, her beauty and creativity raw and unadorned, from youth into her old age.”
—Julie Metz, author of the New York Times bestseller Perfection
"Karen Karbo has done what no biographer, social critic, or fan has yet been able to do. She's burrowed past the genius and the legend and the clichés and arrived at the heart of Georgia-philia. The lessons she imparts remind us that true independence, like true eccentricity, true beauty and, of course, true love, cannot be faked. They remind us that owning your life requires owning your soul and, beyond that, you don't really need much else. I want to give this book to every young woman I know who's setting out on her own in the world—not to mention the rest of us, who could always use a refresher course on this stuff." —Meghan Daum, author of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House
"How perfect that a writer as thoughtful, original, and hilarious as Karen Karbo takes on as a subject the talented, passionate, and fearless Georgia O'Keeffe. The result is a fresh, funny, highly personalized take on ‘the nation's greatest woman artist,’ a meticulously researched, page-turning romp through the life of a painter whose days were as bold and unique as her art." —Cathi Hanauer, author of Sweet Ruin and editor of The Bitch in the House
“Karbo writes like nobody else. She gives you O’Keeffe, but she also serves herself up in relation to O’Keeffe, woman to woman, as it were. Others do this, and the charm is so obviously fake . . . that millions fall for it. Karbo serves up more rueful memories: the dateless high school years, thyroid surgery, going on the O’Keefe trail in an RV. . . . Yes, there’s the standard stuff you want and need to know: the paintings, the photographs, her love of the Southwest. All presented lightly, effortlessly, casually, colloquially. ‘For O'Keeffe, forty was the new sixty,’ Karbo writes. That’s not being cool. That’s just style.” —Jesse Kornbluth, Head Butler