Georgia O’Keefe was a prolific letter writer with an Amoristic flourish to her inked missives that graphically expressed her passion for photographer Alfred Stieglitz. In 1922 she wrote:
‘It’s my body that wants you and it seems to be the only thought or desire that I have – it even seems to be my only memory of you – two bodies that have fused – have touched with completeness at both ends making a complete circuit.’
At the stirring exhibition of her work at the Tate last year the Amorist particularly fell in love with O’Keeffe’s vibrant flower paintings and their lush resonance of sex. Imagine what it was like for Stieglitz, knowing both her body and her imagination intimately, to receive this missive:
‘I am on my back, waiting for you, to die with the sense of you – the pleasure of you – the sensuousness of me – all my body – all of me is waiting for you to touch the center of me with the center of you.’
The Amorist has boxes of fading love letters wrapped in velvet ribbon in her loft, for rereading in her dotage and longs to revive this lost art of seduction for her children - reared on the instant gratification of text and snapchat.
She was delighted to find that some of O’Keeffe’s love letters were being read aloud as part of the Hotbed ‘Festival of Sex’ taking place at Camden People’s theatre in London. Curated by theatre maker Rachel Mars, the evening was unromantically titled: ‘Your Sexts are Shit: Older Better Letters’, but included some gems.
James Joyce’s delight in anal sex was drolly expressed in his childishly exuberant letters to Nora Barnacle in 1908:
‘You had an arse full of farts that night, darling – big fat fellows, long windy ones, quick little merry cracks and a lot of tiny little naughty farties.’
Potty talk doesn’t quite rock the Amorist’s boat, but the frisson of overhearing other lovers’ intimate talk is undeniable – and it’s easy to imagine a giggling young Nora loving this.
O’Keeffe’s face in later years was scored with lines that narrated her life as articulately as her writing and were memorably described as being ‘like grooves on the soles of canvas shoes’. If the Amorist lives that long, she plans still to be writing love letters in a shaky hand and, who knows, hopefully receiving them.
If readers wish to share a favourite line from a love letter they’ve written, received (or wished they had), please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. A mystery prize for the one that has the erotic depth and power of one of O’Keeffe’s paintings.
Hotbed 2017 ‘Festival of Sex’ is at Camden People’s Theatre until 17 May: https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/wp_theatre_season/hotbed-2017/
Georgia O'Keefe museum: www.okeeffemuseum.org
The difference between sex and love is that sex relieves tension and love causes it.