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[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Inspiration, Compromises, and Expressions of O’Keeffe’s Artistic Vision in “Georgia In Hawaii”

"Georgia In Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased" by Amy Novesky and Yuyi Morales.

Myra here.

We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2019 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.

Georgia In Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keeffe Painted What She Pleased

Written by Amy Novesky Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers (2012)
ISBN: 0152054200 (ISBN13: 9780152054205) Literary Award: Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction (2012)
Borrowed from the Jurong West Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

This book presents only one aspect of Georgia O’Keeffe’s life as an artist – the time when she was consigned by the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now known as DOLE) to travel to Hawaii and “create two paintings to promote the delights of pineapple juice.”

There are no details about Georgia’s childhood since as the title indicates, this book focuses primarily on her time getting to know the island, and immersing herself in the beauty of the flora and fauna around Hawaii. Much to her “employer’s” chagrin, Georgia did not feel beholden to her sponsors; she painted what she pleased, inspired as she was by what she sees around her.

I am slightly conflicted by the message conveyed in the book. While on the other hand, it is clear that artists do have their own creative vision that they need to honour, I also recognize that there are certain minimum deliverables that even an artist needs to perform if they are consigned to do a particular task, and a contract has been drawn, agreed upon, and signed. While the title of the book indicated Georgia’s seemingly-unyielding nature, the Author’s Note indicated that she delivered in the end:

And Georgia wrote, “If my painting is what I have to give back to the world for what the world has given to me… these paintings are what I have to give… for what three months in Hawaii gave to me.”

Yuyi Morales’ paintings are luminous as per usual. Her detailed Illustrator’s Note mentioned how she came up with the art of the book. If anything, I am now intrigued to see exactly the elusive pineapple that O’Keeffe eventually created.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

1 comment on “[Nonfiction Wednesday] The Inspiration, Compromises, and Expressions of O’Keeffe’s Artistic Vision in “Georgia In Hawaii”

  1. annettepimentel

    I appreciate your honesty about being conflicted about the message of the book. One of the things I love/hate about nonfiction is how messy it is–real life!

    Liked by 1 person

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