I had always wanted to be a writer. I remember the moment, in 10th grade [at Buckingham Browne & Nichols in Cambridge], the teacher was talking about a piece of literature and I could see the fire and passion he felt. I remember thinking to myself, “Someday I want to write something that makes someone feel like that.”
I had always admired O’Keeffe’s work, but I didn’t fall in love with it until I saw a show of her abstractions at the Whitney Museum of American Art. For me, that show was a revelation. That’s when I realized the range and power of what she was doing.
I didn’t want to write the story of the O’Keeffe we know, but how she became the O’Keeffe we know. I wanted to reveal how perceptions of her have been shadowed by the gendered politics she faced as a female artist in a predominantly male art world. I focused on the years she lived in New York with [Alfred] Stieglitz, because those were the years her art was recognized, when she fell in love, when she made those artistic innovations and choices that set the course of the rest of her life. It was relevant to women and artists years ago, and it’ll be relevant years from now.
I feel like, as a writer, life and work are not so separate. There’s just a continual flow between the two, and I love that. It demands that you’re present in your life. You might not notice that you left papers or your coat, but you notice the expression on someone’s face and the impact of a word or phrase that someone says. The larger experiences, but also the small day-to-day observations and interactions — that’s constantly being woven into the stories I create.
BY THE BOOK Tripp’s fourth novel, Georgia, comes out on Tuesday. Visit dawntripp.com/events for a schedule of readings, including appearances in Newton and Brookline.