Bad Ass Branding



ceramic, approx. 6″h.


The Georgia O’Keeffe museum here in Santa Fe is our most visited tourist attraction.

Now, why is that?

I often see women with salt and pepper hair standing still on the sidewalk with neck crooked to their smartypants phone searching out the museum.

Often, they are on a pilgrimage to visit an homage to my generation’s heroine in the “got my own life happenin’ and there will be no apologies to nobody” department.

Currently, at the Brooklyn Museum in NY there is an exhibition of Georgia’s clothes (watch short film) juxtaposed against photographs of her wearing the garments.

This woman lived alone in the deep, high desert landscape of New Mexico; no husband, kids, family, even neighbor within sight.

She painted with high attention and knowledge of eroticism-as-a-daily-way-of-being

Yet spent her life denying this was her.

Self-care for her looked like protecting her privacy with the fierceness of a wet-mouthed lioness giving fang.

The lecture I attended yesterday at our museum was a slide presentation of her clothing.  We saw garments hand-sewn (by HAND and not machine) by Georgia herself.

Black was her color and in photographs  she struck poses with full knowledge of what the negative space was doing as well as each perfectly positioned limb, cheekbone and hand.

Underneath the ever-present black dress, suit or trousers were fantastically delicate little off-white blouses with feminine ties, bows and buttons, ruffles.

The woman she wanted you and me to see was quite severe

And yet there, underneath, in the privacy of a lining or slip or underwear

Were rips that had been lovingly mended in the tenderest of ways.

Beloved dresses torn on some desert branch

Were patched like a prayer. (this little blouse became worn at the back closure and you can see Georgia’s delicate reinforcement of two tint rectangles as she extended the life of the  blouse)

I understand now that she lived her life as art; controlled how she was perceived, tending to her deep femininity by secretly keeping finely crafted intimates next to her skin.

As I continue to learn about her I realize no corner of her life existed without the benefit of attention and intention.

She was conscious enough to understand the appeal of the shroud of mystery she concocted. 

Pretty much the polar opposite of a Kardashian.

The thing is that each of these women created extremely effective “stories” about themselves through acute attention to exactly what information and how much the public were privileged to see and kept the rest for themselves.

Through curatorial consistency they both give us interesting stories to walk around inside.

We get just enough to judge, wonder, be inspired or repulsed.

I think their genius has been to leave our interest always  somehow piqued.




5 Responses to “Bad Ass Branding”

  1. Alexis McNaughton on May 4th, 2017

    So beautifully described. Thank you Cathy.

  2. Dennis Chamberlain on May 4th, 2017

    This is such a compelling tribute to Georgia O’Keeffe; you have put forth some of the finest writing I have seen in a long, long time.

  3. gerry harty on May 5th, 2017

    Bravo Cathy! I was right there with Georgia as she was mending her blouse! you are an amazing writer!!!xoxo

  4. Barry on May 5th, 2017

    “attention and intention”

  5. Ellen Fox on May 6th, 2017

    This is terrific essay but…everytime I see a work of yours, like these wonderful sculptures, it knocks my socks off. Reminds me of Venus of Willendorf and related figures but entirely yours.


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