A new exhibition at Denver Art Museum features Georgia O’Keefe, the painter famous for her portraits of flowers. The DAM’s Georgia O’Keefe: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land opened yesterday, February 15, and runs through April 28, 2013. The show organized by the Georgia O’Keefe Museum focuses on the artist’s appreciation of New Mexican landscapes and native cultural traditions.
The exhibition’s iconic image is Georgia O'Keeffe, “Ram's Head, Blue Morning Glory,” painted in 1938. The oil on canvas measures 20 x 30 inches. A gift of the Burnett Foundation, the painting includes a bleached ram’s skull and a small blue morning glory bloom.
The artist painted flowers not out of fondness for the subject matter, but from a pragmatic point of view: "I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move."
Flowers figured in some of O’Keefe’s most recognizable paintings that depicted blossoms in unusual, up-close focus. For almost 20 years, O’Keeffe painted flowers, particularly the centers of flowers. O'Keeffe's flower paintings often are interpreted as sexual statements, but the artist denied that intention.
Were O'Keeffe's flowers designed to make sexual statements?
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum website notes that the artist "presented the sexual anatomy of the flower in sharp focus. By drawing attention to the inherent androgyny of this subject, O’Keeffe could have been attempting to contradict the critical notion that her subject matter was related exclusively to her gender.
“But if so, the critics in 1925 missed O’Keeffe’s point (as most still do). They interpreted her flowers as they had interpreted her earlier abstractions, as expressions of her sexuality. In 1943, O’Keeffe finally responded: ‘Well – I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flowers you hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don’t.’” (In Ernest W. Watson, “Georgia O’Keeffe,” American Artist, June 1943.)
Georgia O’Keeffe ‘s notable quotes include a number of comments about flowers:
• “It was in the 1920s, when nobody had time to reflect, that I saw a still-life painting with a flower that was perfectly exquisite, but so small you really could not appreciate it.”
• “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time - like to have a friend takes time.”
• “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.”
• “I decided that if I could paint that flower in a huge scale, you could not ignore its beauty.”
Admission to the DAM is free the first Saturday of each month. With general admission to the DAM, you may take a 45-minute Georgia O’Keefe: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land Tour offereddaily through April 28, 2013, at 1 p.m. Meet in the first level elevator lobby of the Hamilton Building. Reservations are not required. More information:
Denver Art Museum.
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