Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Georgia O'Keeffe's Spirituality by Introspection

This post is an updated and expanded form of an essay that I wrote in my college Women in Art class! I am excited to share some expanded and edited versions of my essays here (since I did spend plenty of time working on them, and I'd hate for them to rot away in my hard drive forever!)

Georgia O'Keeffe, Source

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” -Georgia O'Keeffe, Quote 1 
“I hate flowers- I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.”
-Georgia O'Keeffe, Quote 2 
“I decided that if I paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”
-Georgia O'Keeffe, Quote 3

Georgia O'Keeffe's art is a classic example of American art of the early 1900s, especially with her usual subject matter of cityscapes and close-up views of flowers. Her style of abstraction has been lauded by artists and critics alike. Despite flowers and landscapes being a large part of her portfolio, O'Keeffe's idea of nature is detached, aesthetic, and almost entirely indifferent.

White Pansy, Source
O'Keeffe held a very popular view of the juxtaposition between the natural and industrialized world; humanity was becoming to busy and innovation-focused to stop and appreciate the naturally-occurring beauties in the world (see Quote 1). Much of her famous work consists of taking a close-up look at flowers, despite her distaste for them (see Quote 2). Take, for example, White Pansy. This oil on canvas painting features a white flower that takes up most of the canvas, as well as a scattered handful of little blue flowers taking up the negative space. While the flowers are not hyper-realistic, the somewhat flat abstraction and use of soft colors convey a calm and simple beauty that O'Keeffe admits cannot be ignored (see Quote 3).

O'Keeffe's flowers and landscapes are believed to not be direct representations of the specific objects themselves, but rather “abstract symbols for nature... generalized representations.” The abstraction, as well as her re-visitation of flowers, caused many men in the art world to critically accuse her of using her art to place subliminal view of female genitalia in plain view. O'Keeffe denied these accusations, brushing them off as simply prejudiced remarks against women in the art world. Instead, O'Keeffe's intention was to use nature as a catalyst to remind her viewers to slow down. The significance of the use of nature lies in the fact that flowers were such common things, yet they tend to be overlooked for all their beauty. It is less spirituality in terms of a reverence and more in terms of a personal meditation.

1"Georgia O'Keeffe Quotes." BrainyQuote. Accessed May 02, 2016.
2See “Georgia O'Keeffe Quotes.” ^
3See “Georgia O'Keeffe Quotes.” ^
4Georgia O'keeffe”. 1984. “Georgia O'keeffe”.The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 42 (2). The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 3–64. doi:10.2307/3258762.

Post a Comment