An artist’s rivalry lives forever



Articles remain in circulation indefinitely in the blogging world. In the past, a journalist might record a grand adventure in National Geographic or LIFE, and yet with the exception of powder room magazine racks and doctors’ offices, it withered away within weeks, maybe days, of publication.

As a college student in the 1980s, I received articles from my mother, “The Date Rape Drug” or “Rapist Hides Beneath Cars in Mall Parking Lot,” which I tacked to the residence hall bulletin board, where she looked for them on her annual visit. A few years ago I found, in my grandmother’s elegant 1960s Ferragamo handbag, an article dated 1965 and carefully folded and underlined in the zipper compartment: “Dear Abby, My husband looks at other women. What should I do?”

Today, thanks to social media, this limited circulation is, well, limited.

Last week, out of the blue, a twitter site, hosted by NY Times Notable Book author Karen Karbo, mentioned twice a post I wrote nearly a year ago about artist Georgia O’Keeffe — or, specifically, artist George Rodrigue’s outward disdain for her work.

Karbo’s twitter page, @BecomingOKeeffe, relates to her latest book, How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living. According to Publisher’s Weekly, Karbo “ponders … what went on inside the artist to allow her to defy society’s conventions and be so ‘resolutely herself’ in the service of an abiding passion,” a quote that, oddly enough, reminds me of Rodrigue.

My Backyard, 1937 by Georgia OKeeffe, part of a statewide traveling exhibition, Copley to Warhol:  American Art Celebrating the New Orleans Museum of Art
  • New Orleans Museum of Art
  • 'My Backyard,' 1937 by Georgia O'Keeffe, part of a statewide traveling exhibition, 'Copley to Warhol: American Art Celebrating the New Orleans Museum of Art'

Within two hours of Karbo’s twitter mention, my stat counter showed more than one thousand hits on an old story and, because those readers shared and re-tweeted, the flurry continues, ultimately picked up by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (@okeeffemuseum) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the original source, ironically, of George Rodrigue’s disputation.

“The only reason you look at some of this art is because it’s hanging here, in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Otherwise a person might walk on by. This museum is the worst collection of her paintings. She needed a good editor.” —Rodrigue, from the original story-

I spent most of that blog post (and that December 2010 afternoon) defending O’Keeffe. For my efforts, George throws her a small and begrudging (dog?) bone:

“She loved this land and this place; I’ll give her that.”

The lasting effect of that post, however, goes deeper. Months later, as he lectured and painted within the Alexandria Museum of Art, Rodrigue praised O’Keeffe publicly, focusing on her work in relation to his own.

“She created her own world, and I created mine,” he explained, nodding from O’Keeffe’s New Mexico landscape (in the photograph above and below, left of the podium), to his own wet canvas.


“I’ve been to Ghost Ranch,” he continued, “and this painting has no relationship to the actual mountains. But that’s okay. That’s the prerogative of the artist, to interpret what he or she sees and make it their own.”

As I listened, stunned, the audience listened, intrigued. They studied O’Keeffe’s landscape with renewed interest, all because an artist they came to see (Rodrigue) softened towards and indeed complimented a painting and artist they might otherwise have overlooked.

That week I blogged about Rodrigue and O’Keeffe again, grateful for the opportunity to amend the record.

Today the entire exchange, linked as ‘source’ below, remains in circulation as though posted yesterday. I’m near giddy, admittedly, at the thought of my next visit with George Rodrigue to the O’Keeffe Museum, perhaps my favorite Santa Fe stomping ground. The story (and lively dialogue) not only lives on, but also enlightens…. me, perhaps George Rodrigue, and hopefully some of you as well.

Wendy Rodrigue (a.k.a. Dolores Pepper)

*source: “Rodrigue vs. O’Keeffe: Choosing Magnus and Murphy Over the Great Modernist Painter,” 12/29/10 and “Blue Dogs, Ghost Ranch and Mrs. Wertheimer: George Rodrigue at the Alexandria Museum of Art,” 6/5/11, both from “Musings of an Artist’s Wife”

*confession: I haven’t read Karbo’s book yet because I’m waiting for my signed copy, ordered from a favorite independent bookstore, Vroman’s in Pasadena, a stop on her book tour-

*commercial: Wendy is now on twitter and facebook


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