Georgia O'Keefe

Early this year, I saw Georgia O'Keefe, a film that offers glimpses of Georgia O'Keefe's life, when she met photographer and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz in New York. And the nature of this relationship is the approximate center of the film. Because of this focus, one is tempted to argue that the film doesn't talk much about O'Keefe's art, although as it handles this aspect of her life, Bob Balaban's direction tries to connect, in his own quiet way, her art and her relationship with Stieglitz.

Stieglitz's keen eye for art talents sees potential in the budding painter in O'Keefe, and displays some of her work in his small gallery; there, her paintings sit beside the work of European artists who, over time, would achieve respect, fame, and, in many cases, fortune from affluent art patrons in the United States.

Stieglitz understands the business side of art, that the rich plays indispensable roles in preserving the work of artists. Thus, as art promoter, Stieglitz's gallery courts the super-rich. And this courtship somehow imbues the affluent with evolving layers of taste and sophistication, elements that quietly superimpose and gloss-over notions of barbarity and greed implied in being very rich. On the other hand, this courtship is surrounded by writers, critics who feed on details in the art world, and refine them into essays for the general public to consume.

In some sense, Stieglitz's personality evolves and revolves around the charms and sensibilities of this intimate social circle. As invaluable member of that circle, his appetite for women is accepted by its members, that somehow the institution of marriage gives him social and sexual claustrophobia. Thus, when Stieglitz marries O'Keefe, he is still married to someone else; and while he is married to O'Keefe, he becomes involved with another woman, from the Sears-Roebuck business clan.

Often, Jeremy Irons' Stieglitz threatens to rename the film Alfred Stieglitz, because he constantly pushes O'keefe and the film under his control. Luckily, Joan Allen gives her O'keefe gravity, imposing enough for me to believe the movie still vaguely deserves to be titled under the lustrous banner of the painter's name.