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She had been showing her paintings for over five decades, and due to macular degeneration, had set aside her oil paints to begin a series of abstractions in watercolor. I do not want to intrude on your privacy—your solitude. I would like to see you, be near you for just a few moments and learn if I have the strength and power to proceed in my work by witnessing your will.
But it just happened to land in the hands of her secretary on the right day, at the right time, and that was that. In a rare gesture Georgia invited Carol to visit her on a Sunday but to stay for only one hour. Merrill did not respond to the invitation for six months. What do you do when one of your heroes responds from the void? Merrill kept the reply folded up in her backpack, like a gremlin she was trying to prevent from escaping. But it kept glowing from whatever pocket she put it in: Answer me, answer me.
Merrill made the one-hour appointment for an August morning. She lived to be 98, and was able to speak in lucid terms about her work almost until the day she died, in March Her role eventually expanded to cook, secretary, and companion. She read to Georgia from her favorite books, including biographies and the Taoist text The Secret of the Golden Flower. They drank orange blossom tea together.
They walked together, a lot. The show, curated by modernist scholar Wanda Corn, will live in Brooklyn through July before hitting the road for a nationwide tour; the demand has been so great that the museum is issuing timed tickets for the exhibition to manage the crowds. She wore pink wrap dresses and raw denim dungarees; both served a practical, daily function in her desert life. To an outside observer, it may have seemed as if she were winking at traditional femininity. Carol merrill nude first room displays a selection of her loose cream silk tunics, which would not look out of place in an Eileen Fisher boutique.
She liked clean lines and muted colors, precise tailoring and careful pintucks, with an aesthetic that tilted toward minimalism and function. The images are all so carefully composed, so architectural, so full of her returned gaze, that it is difficult not to feel her willpower guiding every frame. Although Stieglitz took several nudes of the young artist, the way she aggressively stares down the camera in these images suggests that she was less an object of his work and more a conspirator in it.
She knew how she wanted to be seen, and she sculpted her own fame. Her paintings made her wealthy and famous. She was the highest-paid woman artist in New York City within a decade of moving there from Texas. But her self-presentation—the high priestess of the high desert in crepe dresses and dirty work boots—made her an icon. She was a wisp of a woman making paintings that were often larger than herself, pulling hyper-saturated turquoises and fuchsias out of the dull earth. She put together the hardy and the delicate and the efflorescent in a way that no one had before, and just like that, the world shifted.
Her boxy blouses and fitted suits underpin her devotion to form as the wellspring of creativity; her body was a minimalist canvas, and she took the time to swaddle it in unexpected proportions. Her self-presentation skewed quieter, however, than the operatic flowers of carol merrill nude best-known artwork. Between the touring exhibition and a hulking new cookbook of her favorite recipes, we are in the midst of a highly Instagrammed Georgia revival.
It ends:. One day she said what do you write about me? Are you going to tell what I eat for breakfast? With her choice to move West, she consecrated the land with her paintbrush, and her paintings became shorthand for understanding a state for those who have never been there. She wanted her image spread wide. She courted celebrity even as she claimed to eschew it; she played hard to get so that people would keep coming around trying to find her.
Because if they came to find her, they also encountered her work. They saw the twists in the river just the way she did, they saw the odd bend of a weather vane, they saw stamens blown up into architectural spectacle. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser and improve your visit to our site.
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