How Illness Affects Artists’ Work | Catch My Job


Between 1973 and 1979, poet Carol Merrill spent weekends with Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiu, New Mexico, providing hands and eyes as the artist grew frail and macular degeneration claimed her eyesight. Physical pain, such as an injured arm, prevented O’Keefe from expending his creative energies and provoked temper tantrums. He could still ‘see’ the art he wanted to create, but his body wouldn’t allow it. O’Keeffe made his last unaided painting in 1972, but his peripheral vision allowed him to see enough to sketch. Sometimes he supervised assistants as they translated preparatory work into paintings. Merrill tried to work for O’Keefe on his easel, but was informed that his brushwork sounded wrong. To O’Keefe, Merrill didn’t seem like he was painting. Thus the poet and Tuli parted company.

Carolee Snyman

Known/Unknown: The Plague Column (1995-96), Carolee Schneemann. Carole Schneemann Foundation, New York. Photo: Marcus J. Leith; © 2022 Carolee Schneemann Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London


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