The Radicant Artist: Echoes of Georgia O'Keeffe in Contemporary Poetry

Pagliarusco, Cristiana (2016) The Radicant Artist: Echoes of Georgia O'Keeffe in Contemporary Poetry. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines the renderings into poetry of the life and works of the American Modernist painter, Georgia O’Keeffe. This study intends to show how these poems have interpreted, de-codified and translated O’Keeffe’s subjects into words by making room for new meaningful images, thereby expanding what O’Keeffe meant to do with her art, and thus nourishing her artistic legacy. It borrows the term radicant from Nicolas Bourriaud to capture the essence of O’Keeffe, as an artist who set her roots in motion in order to approach art in heterogeneous contexts and formats, transplanting and thus sharing new creative behaviors. The introduction presents the development of ekphrastic writing, a summary of the principal aesthetic and critical theories I have adopted, a reflection on the reasons why O’Keeffe often showed a certain reticence to the world of words, and the explanation of the materials and methodology that support this study. A section of four chapters analyzes the extent to which poetry prompted by O’Keeffe’s paintings provides not only accurate and eulogistic descriptions of her art but also an encounter between what W. J. T. Mitchell called two “paragonal” media that expand the interpretation of her art on the one hand, and the scope of ekphrastic poetry on the other. The first chapter explores the poems related to the places where O’Keeffe lived and from which she drew inspiration, and aims at confirming her idea that her legacy depends on what she made of these spaces. The second chapter examines the poems that refer to O’Keeffe’s living and still natures whose close-up study echoes her idea of realizing the Great American Painting as the celebration of the vastness and miracle of the world in which we live. The third chapter concentrates on the poems inspired by O’Keeffe’s painted human artifacts that emphasize the importance of a poetry of common things, an attitude that O’Keeffe shared with poet William Carlos Williams. The fourth chapter presents poems inspired by photographs that portray O’Keeffe, and intends to assert photography as the tertium quid in the complementary relationship between painting and poetry, thus reaffirming the connecting and radicant power of the arts. I conclude this study by arguing that in visual art as well as in poetry the shared process of selecting and emphasizing helps the artists to get at the essence of things, and thus to disentangle the complicated facets of existence. The analysis of the resistance of meanings in the dialogue between the artist’s artwork and the poet’s composition appears to define the intangible that artist, poet and viewer/reader have tried to articulate. May Swenson’s “O’Keeffe Retrospective” functions as a final poetic gallery through which the poet conducts the reader/viewer in a radicant lyrical portrait of the painter, where the thingness of O’Keeffe’s things is fully celebrated, and the readers can clearly see what they have merely looked at. The two appendices include the reproductions of the visual references analyzed in this study, and a selection of three poems with my Italian translation.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Humanities
PhD Cycle:28
Subjects:Area 10 - Scienze dell'antichità, filologico-letterarie e storico-artistiche > L-LIN/11 LINGUE E LETTERATURE ANGLO-AMERICANE
Repository Staff approval on:22 Jun 2016 09:21

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