(Picture courtesy of something from nancy at flickr.com.)
Possibly the best known prominent American female artist, Georgia O’Keefe has her own museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. While I had known of her association with the Southwest and was familiar with her intense flower paintings, it was there I first saw the scenes of New York that had earlier distinguished her work earlier, along with her later pottery.
The life she led in her early career has been somewhat overshadowed by the later paintings that centered on Ghost Ranch, and feature the desert and its magic. She explained that the desert held special qualities for her. She started with abstraction, but moved into more representational art as she developed.
Her abstract imagery of the 1910s and early 1920s is among the most innovative of any work produced in the period by American artists. She revolutionized the tradition of flower painting in the 1920s by making large-format paintings of enlarged blossoms, presenting them close up as if seen through a magnifying lens. And her depictions of New York buildings, most of which date from the same decade, have been recognized as among the most compelling of any paintings of the modern city. Beginning in 1929, when she first began working part of the year in Northern New Mexico—which she made her permanent home in 1949—O’Keeffe depicted subjects specific to that area. Through paintings of its unique landscape configurations, adobe churches, cultural objects, and the bones and rocks she collected from the desert floor, she ultimately laid claim to this area of the American Southwest, which earlier had been celebrated primarily by male artists; the area around where she worked and lived has become known as “O’Keeffe Country.”
O’Keeffe turned to working more representationally in the 1920s in an effort to move her critics away from Freudian interpretations. Her earlier work had been mostly abstract, but works such as Black Iris III (1926) evoke a veiled representation of female genitalia while also accurately depicting the center of an iris. Moreover, the centers of flowers are androgynous and can hardly be understood exclusively as feminine. O’Keeffe consistently denied the validity of Freudian interpretations of her art
Georgia O’Keefe has always symbolized the freedom artists thrive in, and is associated with the bohemian lifestyle. She taught, and worked with other artists, through a long life of change and adventures. Her work is well known throughout the art world for its daring and originality.
(Picture courtesy of ahisgeff’s photostream at flickr.com)