An American Phenomenon: Issues of Identity
“The days you work are the best days.” This famous quote by Georgia O’Keeffe speaks to her passion for her art. On April 12, The Trusteeship gathered to learn more about the artist, a cultural icon who forged a path forwomen painters in the American art scene.
Our evening was hosted at the historic Jonathan Club in downtown Los Angeles. The club is a beautiful Italian Renaissance-style building built in the 1920‘s, the same time O’Keeffe’s art was first gaining attention in New York. The dark wood, elongated chandeliers and ornately decorated ceilings of the dining room created the perfect setting for a closer look into O’Keeffe’s life. Special guest Barbara Buhler Lynes, a member of the IWF in Santa Fe, shared with us her extensive knowledge about Georgia O’Keeffe which centered around something specifically dear to O’Keeffe; her homes. Barbara is a curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the Emily Fisher Landau Director of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Research Center. “She had a profound appreciation for the natural world,” Barbara shared about O’Keeffe, “which can easily be seen through her choices in where to reside.” O’Keeffe had two homes in New Mexico, where she moved in 1929. Both were set in the open land, with enlarged windows to capture the natural beauty and décor in a minimalist style, almost as if not to distract from the gorgeous surrounding landscapes. “New Mexico completely liberated O’Keeffe,” Barbara explained as she displayed a most unique photograph of O’Keeffe taken by Ansel Adams outside one of her homes. The picture showed O’Keeffe, dressed as if she was working in a field, with a steer skull with the flesh still intact in one hand, and the bones of the animal in the other. “This is not how most women of her day looked or acted, but look at her!” Barbara exclaimed, “She’s absolutely thrilled!” O’Keeffe’s rise to fame was fueled by Alfred Stieglitz, the father of modern photography in America, who later married her. Stieglitz was the first to impose sexual interpretations on O’Keeffe’s art, an act that she did not agree with or intend. While these interpretations are still disputed today, one lasting quote from O’Keeffe herself speaks to the intention of her masterful art; “There is something unexplored about woman that only a woman can explore.”