This past weekend in London I was lucky enough to get to explore the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Tate Modern! This is a super rare exhibit with over 100 of O’Keeffe’s paintings all in one place – including “Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1″…the most expensive painting by a woman ever sold. In short, it’s an exhibit full of girl power.
I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.
The Tate is a famous and massive modern art museum along the south bank of the Thames. There are always free exhibits, but currently there are three special exhibits open which you need to purchase tickets for. It was definitely worth the price (£17) though – when my parents and I were skyping my artist Grandmother and she told us about the exhibit, which just opened, we knew we had to go! I love Georgia O’Keeffe and spent my elementary school art class days trying to recreate her famous flowers.
I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.
The exhibit is so much more than O’Keeffe’s flowers, though. Which (bad Sarah) I didn’t really know what she painted apart from flowers… It spans her entire artistic career, and as she lived to be 98 that’s quite a long career. Each room takes you through a different artistic age in her life – from her early abstract pieces and architectural pieces, her paintings of New York skylines from her apartment with photographer husband Alfred Stiegletz, her incredibly iconic flowers, her bone paintings, and her New Mexico landscapes…
I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at – not copy it.
One huge thing I learned at the exhibit is that O’Keeffe really fought the feminist interpretation of her flower paintings – to her they really were just flowers. She thought her paintings received a gendered interpretation because she was a woman, and she often fought this by painting architectural pieces with straight, stark lines.
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.
I hate flowers — I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move!
O’Keeffe disdained the feminist interpretation of, especially, her flower paintings. She said that the interpretations were the result of the interpreter’s psyche, rather than her own. Whilst she did not identify as a feminist and loudly claimed she was “not a woman painter!” O’Keeffe still fought for her rights and status alongside the male painters of her age. It’s argued that O’Keeffe’s life is the perfect real life example of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of Her Own – She was able to create and achieve such great things as a woman because she had, literally, a room of her own.
Men put me down as the best woman painter…
…I think I’m one of the best painters.
The exhibit also delves into O’Keeffe’s later paintings in New Mexico, and her search for the “Great American Thing.” For her, it became her paintings of bones she found in the desert. In some ways, the flowers of her youth were replaced with bones in her older age. Perhaps this was her retaliation against feminist interpretation.
When I started painting the pelvis bones I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them – particularly the blue from holding them up against the sky…They were the most beautiful thing against the Blue – that Blue that will always be there as it is now after all man’s destruction is finished.
One can not be an American by going about saying that one is an American. It is necessary to feel America, like America, love America and then work.
The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Tate Modern will be open 6 July – 30 October 2016. And if you can go, you really, really should.
Thanks GJ for the recommendation!!!