During a sleepless night I got up to read in my special chair, surrounded by art and the aches and pains of age, and thought about Georgia O’Keeffe. So I pulled down her favourite book, The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura, from my shelf at Poetry Corner and peacefully browsed until drowsy.
“Enshu said the idea of a garden path was to be found in the following verses:
A cluster of summer trees,
A bit of the sea,
A pale evening moon.
It is not difficult to gather his meaning. He wished to create the attitude of a newly awakened soul still lingering amid shadowy dreams of the past, yet bathing in the sweet unconsciousness of a mellow spiritual light, and yearning for the freedom that lay in the expanse beyond.”
Kobori Enshu lived in 16th century Japan and was known for his garden design and poetry. I can see the words I have quoted from The Book of Tea inspiring Georgia’s art and sensibility.
From The Georgia O’Keeffe Oracle, handmade for me by Laura Secor:
BLUE, BLACK AND WHITE ABSTRACTION #12
Oil on canvas
H: 16 x W: 30 in / H: 40.6 x W: 76.2 cm
1959 was the year Georgia took an around-the-world trip with friends. In Asia she was again inspired by Japanese prints and the poetry of Japan and China, as she had been when young. She found the landscapes of New Mexico reminding her of Oriental vistas; the light and mountains like Japanese prints. She made trips around the United States to look at Asian art collections in museums. She returned again to Asia in 1960, visiting Cambodia and other places she had missed the previous year, as well as Japan.
In 1960, before she went on her second trip to Asia, she had her first exhibition on 14 years. This painting was one exhibited along with other new, “organic” landscapes and abstracts.
Two mountains intersecting or a bird in flight, the juxtaposition is beautiful, dreamy yet full of energy. Tension, yet peace. All those things.
And maybe it was inspired by Kakuzo Okakura’s small book and the passage about Enshu’s garden path and the soul awakening, still amid the shadowy dreams of the past, bathing in spiritual light, and yearning and reaching for freedom?