How Georgia Became O’Keeffe
Lessons on the Art of Living
by Karen Karbo
“Georgia, had she been into discussing ideas, would have probably come down on the side of process-is-what-matters. Once she was immersed in a mad art-making phase, she kept at it until she felt as if she’d gone as far with the theme as she possibly could…. Which explains why there are series of poppies, calla lilies, jimsonweed, iris, New York skyscrapers, cow skulls….”
When I picked up Karen Karbo’s latest book, I’d never read a biography about Georgia O’Keeffe, even though I’ve been intrigued with her work and her life for many years. What pulled me into Karbo’s book was the subtitle: Lessons on the Art of Living. How Georgia Became O’Keeffe is the third and final book in Karbo’s “kick-ass women” trilogy; it follows How to Hepburn and The Gospel According to Coco Chanel.
Karbo uses ten one-word chapter titles to examine themes from O’Keeffe’s life, work, and process: defy, grow, adopt, muddle, embrace, bare, rebel, drive, break, and prize. Her non-traditional biography includes enough O’Keeffe stories to be satisfying, but goes far beyond these. Karbo gives herself permission to enter the process of creation to imagine what it was like for Georgia to become O’Keeffe. In doing this, she invites readers to go beyond reading a fascinating biography to experiencing Georgia as a creative dynamo with real dilemmas. Actively imagining how Georgia lived with her particular challenges demystifies her as a modern icon and permits readers to see a woman artist trying to be who she was. These are O’Keeffe’s lessons on the art of living.
It’s difficult to remember that O’Keeffe, who lived to be ninety-eight years old, didn’t start out famous. This is where Karbo gives her greatest gift to readers: all ten of the themes are windows into O’Keeffe’s process as well as their own. You probably didn’t survive typhoid and take a year to recover the way Georgia did, but you likely had some setback that derailed your life and left you wondering what you really wanted. You’ll find yourself fascinated by the people, circumstances, struggles, opportunities, decisions, and yearning that shaped the life of O’Keeffe. Throughout, Karbo wonders—how are all of these forces present in our own lives too?
If you are a passionate follower of O’Keeffe or an armchair art historian, you might be tempted to silence Karbo and revoke her creative license. How dare she use her imagination to fill in the blanks and tell more than the facts? But that is one of the many reasons O’Keeffe’s life and work continue to thrill us: Georgia went so far beyond facts that she entered and created a new world.
I’m just imagining, but I think this might be Georgia O’Keeffe’s favorite O’Keeffe biography. It feels in sync with her spirit and her approach to creating art and living life.
Leveraging the Universe
7 Steps to Engaging Life’s Magic
by Mike Dooley
Beyond Words / Atria, 2011
“The only way to fully engage the Universe is to fully engage yourself by doing all you can, with what you have, from where you are.”
In earlier newsletters, I’ve mentioned several books by Dooley including his three-book series: Notes from the Universe, More Notes from the Universe, and Even More Notes from the Universe.
I found a fair amount of overlap between his latest book Leveraging the Universe and his previous two: Manifesting Change and Infinite Possibilities. If you haven’t read any of his books, maybe this will nudge you to check out one of them.
Dooley has a likable, conversational writing style that honors humor, especially when he references examples from his own life. He has tested all of this material on himself and he loves to tell what happened, not just what worked. The heart of all of his books is beautifully captured in his tagline phrase — “Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones.”
Mike Dooley is someone who believes in magic, not the “save me from myself because I’m powerless” kind of magic; but rather the “I’m showing up and something is going to happen” kind of magic.
The seven steps to engaging life’s magic, mentioned in the subtitle, are the seven chapters of the book: Understand your power, Chart your course, Take action and delegate [to the Universe], Leverage the Universe, Align your beliefs, Engage the magic, and Adjust your sails. All of these steps are based on the power of your own thoughts, words, and actions to create what you focus on—even if you have no idea HOW. This is the secret to leveraging the Universe: do what you know to do and delegate to the Universe all that you don’t know how.
When things don’t seem to be working out the way we think they should, we often limit the limitless Universe by thinking we know what needs to happen. If we allow it, the possibilities are infinite.
I encourage you to visit Dooley’s website, where you can register for his daily emails from the Universe at http://www.tut.com TUT stands for truly unique thoughts. Here’s an example:
There’s always more than one right answer, path, possibility, nuance, or flavor — so insist upon none. Insisting on details always limits you.