The Delicate Balance: Happy Valentine’s Day

Sam Gilliam_Red Petals

Sam Gilliam, Red Petals, 1967. Acrylic on canvas, 88 x 93 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1967

Read in the context of today’s holiday, the description of this piece on our website struck me as especially poignant:

“Red Petals is among the first paintings in which Gilliam poured paint onto an unprimed and unstretched canvas, folded the canvas onto itself, suspended it, and left the paint to settle overnight. The next day he sponged, daubed, splattered, folded, rolled, and then restretched the canvas. Gilliam describes this delicate balance between improvisation and discipline as ‘a sort of accident, a part that I controlled, and then a part that I didn’t control, a part that I set into motion.’ The emotional intensity and expressionistic force of Red Petals partly derives from this careful manipulation and the tension between chance and control.”

Amy Wike, Marketing Manager

O’Keeffe and Stieglitz: a Doorstopper of Love Letters

Alfred Stieglitz, photographer, patron, art dealer, and friend of Duncan Phillips, died on July 13, 1946.

Recently, the library was kindly given a copy of the newly published collection, My Faraway One: selected letters of Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz: Volume I, 1915-1933. A substantial book, it is merely a selection of the 25,000 pages these two artists wrote to each other. The book donor commented to our librarian that she found the frequency and specificity of the letters to sound almost like Twitter feeds, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz updating each other on nearly every waking moment of their days. A letter on page 513 begins, “My dearest Alfred . . . I had your two registered letters yesterday afternoon- also your telegram . . . ” Another references a previous letter of 40 pages! Editor Sarah Greenough, who has had a long scholarly relationship with both artists and knew O’Keeffe, has carefully presented these intimate materials according to O’Keeffe’s spare but direct wishes: “make it beautiful and keep it honest.” The book is widely available and on sale in the Phillips shop.