Friday, June 07, 2013

The Many Faces of Georgia O'Keeffe

Anyone who knows me knows I have a thing about religious architecture, so it is no surprise that Church Steeple was one of the works that particularly rang my chimes (pardon the pun) as I mosied through the current exhibit at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe:  Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land (through September 11, 2013; then at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ, September 27, 2013 – January 12, 2014).

O'Keeffe's flower images are probably her best-known paintings, but even for those who have a deeper familiarity with her body of work, this show holds some surprises. 

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) made Northern New Mexico her home for almost 40 years after the death in 1949 of Alfred Stieglitz ... her husband, renowned photographer, and America’s first advocate of modernism in art.  

“When I got to New Mexico [it] was mine", O'Keeffe one said. "As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air ... The sky is different, the wind is different. I shouldn’t say too much about it because other people may be interested and I don’t want them interested.”

This exhibit illuminates the fact that Northern New Mexico inspired O'Keeffe to paint an extraordinary diversity of subjects including architecture, landscape, and religious arts of the region. Numerous works portraying the churches, crosses, folk art, and representations of Katsinam (carved and painted representations of Hopi and Pueblo spirit beings, often known as katchinas) are in the show, as well as her beloved desert, with its stunning geological formations, that spread out from her doorstep. One awesome landscape is called "My Backyard".

The show includes drawings and paintings of the architecture, landscape, and cultural objects that fascinated O’Keeffe and became part of her artistic practice as she explored a new environment and experimented with new colors, forms, and compositional strategies. And a really special part of the show is the room filled with photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe herself, protraits young and old, in her studio, in her kitchen, in her garden.


But wait ... she saw canyons even in Manhattan!