Rediscovering the Persona “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern”
Left: Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). Black Pansy & Forget-Me-Nots (Pansy), 1926. Oil on canvas, 27 1/8x 12 1/4 in. (68.9 x 31.1 cm). Brooklyn Museum; Gift of Mrs. Alfred S. Rossin, 28.521. @ Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Photo: Christine Gant, Brooklyn Museum)Right: Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887–1986). …
Last weekend, I went to see the “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum of Art. I expected to see her magnificent flower paintings, but instead, I learned more about Georgia O’Keeffe, the persona. O’Keeffe crafted her signature public image through her clothing and the way she posed for the camera. Married to renown photographer Alfred Stieglitz, the show presents a collection of portraits ranging from the intimate to the iconic. In addition to Stieglitz portraits, the exhibition presents photographs of O’Keeffe and her homes by other famous photographers such as Ansel Adams, Annie Leibovitz, Philippe Halsman, Yousuf Karsh, Cecil Beaton, Andy Warhol, Bruce Weber, Todd Webb, and others.
I learned also that there has been a general misconception about her flower paintings. Most people—including myself—believe they have to do with eroticism and woman sexuality. I learned that she began painting flowers as a response to the rapid urban development of New York City and how flowers were being replaced with buildings. She decided to paint monumental flowers so people will see them as big and as powerful as pieces of architecture.
O’Keeffe, who lived almost 100 years, became nearly blind during the last years of her life. Nevertheless, she kept on painting. “Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” shows some of the last paintings O’Keeffe made. They are monochromatic fluid, simple abstractions. Ironically, they are reminiscent of the very early work shown in her first-ever museum exhibition, which was held at the Brooklyn Museum in 1927. She started in abstraction and returned to abstraction going full circle.
Georgia O’Keeffe was a revolutionary artist. Her art, clothes, subject matter and the way she looked at the camera made her immortal. Check out “Living Modern” and discover for yourself what makes Georgia O’Keeffe into one of our most treasured American Icons.
“Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” is part of A Year of Yes: Reimagining Feminism at the Brooklyn Museum, a yearlong series of exhibitions celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.
“Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern”
March 3–July 23, 2017
The Brooklyn Museum of Art
Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th Floor