Georgia O'Keeffe: Nov.15,1887-Mar.6,1986...United
"So I said
to myself; I'll paint what I see. What the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time
to look at it. I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers."
When I think of all of the millions of paintings
revolving around the subject of flowers, no other artist comes to mind before Georgia O’Keeffe.
She was born a Midwestern girl, hailing from a dairy farm outside of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, located northeast of Madison.
There you could drive on the Georgia O'Keeffe Memorial Highway or attend the Georgia O'Keeffe Celebration in June. It is a
fact that her high school years greatly impacted her professional career as an artist. Her high school art teacher brought
in a jack-in-the-pulpit for the class to draw. At this point she had drawn plaster casts, photos, and copied the famous artists,
but this was the spark that opened the door of art for her.
Obviously she grew from her high school days. She studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, Art Students League in New York,
and Columbia University Teachers College. Yes! Georgia O’Keeffe wanted to be and was an art teacher! Her choice to teach
was no doubt impacted by that great art teacher that exposed her to this exciting communication method. She taught art in
Texas, Virginia, and South Carolina. She then went on to be a supervisor of art teachers in the Texas public schools. Alas,
in the winter of 1915, she choose to change form her work in the schools to her true passion; creation. Some of her art was
sent to a friend in New York for a friendly critique. The drawings were sent to be viewed by the owner of the "291" gallery,
New York photographer, Alfred Stieglitz. He loved them and wanted her to show her works in his gallery. She was in a group show in 1916 and did so
well that he gave her a private show in 1917.
Feeling compelled to promote her work, O'Keeffe began to work in the art center of the world, New York. She worked as a
an advertising designer to support herself. Since 1912, her work was what most would see as “O’Keeffe.”
Her assemblage of slightly surrealistically organized mixture of plants, animal skulls, and nature as a whole. Her work was not a part of any style
beyond her own. Her art was truly her. "I decided I was a very stupid fool not to at least paint as I
wanted to and say what I wanted to when I painted as that seemed to be the only thing I could do that didn’t concern
anybody but myself- that was nobody’s business but my own." Although, it must be acknowledged that the city would impact her art, but it would not impact her mind.
O’Keeffe was a strong believer in and advocate for
women’s rights and gender equality. She butted heads with many gallery owners that felt she was a little too strong
willed for a woman in the 1920’s. As time passed, Stieglitz became enamored by O’Keeffe. He also loved to take
photos of the very pretty young beauty (taking well over 500 photographs of her). They would fall in love and they were married
Preferring the desert to the city, O’Keeffe moved into a twenty-one thousand acre ranch, called Ghost Ranch, outside
Abiquiu, New Mexico, over fifty miles northwest of Santa Fe. “It‘s so beautiful there. It‘s ridiculous.”
It was a tough place to live, so she relocated to four acre plot that sits atop a mesa. After some illness, she was forced
to move into town. It was there that she died in 1986, at the age of 98.