A fascinating archive of signed correspondence from O'Keeffe to an emerging young artist,
offering support in myriad ways, artistic, emotional and financial. After reading an article on O'Keeffe and her art, a bold young Marilyn Thuma (Mym Tuma), fresh out of the Stanford University graduate painting program, sent O'Keefe a brief letter asking to visit her in New Mexico. Somewhat surprisingly, O'Keeffe responds quickly with a quick but warm note on an oversize Starlight Night note card, "Yes/ GOK/ Thanks for your page!"
Thus begins a nearly 10-year relationship, with Tuma coming to Ghost Ranch that summer for the first time. By 1968, Tuma was living in Jocotepec, Mexico, and again visited O'Keefe, having now established a correspondence in which O'Keeffe is clearly engaged in assisting her younger protegee. She writes to Tuma on July 3, 1968, "Do not sell your car or part with your dog. I will send you the two thousand that you need to get your next three paintings done...." And again, in a footnote to her July 20, 1968, letter, O'Keeffe adds urgently, "I want you to be working—free in your mind."
Over the next 3 years, O'Keeffe continues to add advice, connections, inspirations, money, including personal gifts such as her safari chair, clothing, and significantly, the ram's skull from Ghost Ranch. O'Keeffe buys art from Tuma, and helps her get her footing in the art world, with constant encouragement. On April 13, 1969, she writes from the Stanhope in New York, "Yesterday I was at Knoedlers for something of my own and told them of my interest in your work ... think one of their men will come out to see it...."
The early letters, with the archival correspondence from Tuma, evince a relationship of a shared and evolving vision, and a genuine care.
While the letters continue through 1973, something in the relationship changes in late 1971, evidenced by a change in tone in the letters. Whether because of O'Keeffe's deteriorating health and disposition, or for another reason, the later letters are much briefer, typed and sometimes sharp in tone, most strikingly in a one line note to Tuma, after Tuma had required paid medical attention during a visit, "I think you had better pay the bill when you have some money."
Capturing the arc of a friendship, this fantastic correspondence shows O'Keeffe as mentor, much in the way that her correspondence with artist Yayoi Kusama does. Kusama also wrote to O'Keeffe out of the blue in 1955, beginning a mentoring relationship with her as well, and providing a major stepping stone for Kusama in the art world. Covering a span of nearly 10 years, and with moments of tenderness, obvious care, as well as sparring, this correspondence offers an important glimpse into O'Keeffe's role as mentor to younger women artists in her later years. (Inventory #: 26261)