This week was all Georgia O'Keeffe and I'm having a lot of fun. :)
As a child Georgia O'Keeffe was quiet, introspective, and independent. She attended a one room school house, walking there each day with her siblings. Her mom, Ida, supplemented their education at home. She read the classics aloud and taught them piano. Her mom also arranged for her and her sisters to have formal art lessons. Once in the eighth grade a friend asked what Georgia wanted to do when she grew up and when she blurted out, “I am going to be an artist." It surprised her as much as her friend. She didn’t really know what that meant at the time, but her mind was made up.
On Saturday I found myself in a pasture of cows. Of course I had to bring back a few "souvenirs" and played around with them in the driveway. :)
I've been super inspired by all the black and white photos of her and you can see more of that in my photography post this week. [Sketch from a Georgia photo, photo of me.]
Self-assurance came to Georgia rather easily. One day she and her older brother quarreled about the gender of God. Georgia stated that God was a woman, and when Francis scorned the idea, she went to their mother for support. When Mama's answer disappointed her, Georgia stubbornly refused to change her mind. She calmly restated her conviction that God was a woman. Throughout her life she was unashamed of her womanhood and refused to accept traditional gender roles.
The O'Keeffe's sold the farm in Sun Prairie, WI and moved to Williamsburg VA in 1902. Georgia had lost 3 uncles to tuberculosis. Her father wanted to escape farming and the harsh winters and he believed the south would be a healthy move for his family.
Georgia was almost 16 and was sent to a small, girls boarding school where she had a very influential art teacher, Elizabeth May Willis. In art class sometimes Georgia worked intensely and other times she refused to work for days. When the other students complained Mrs. Willis said "when the spirit moves Georgia, she can do more in a day than you can do in a week." Mrs. Willis allowed Georgia to work at her own pace and encouraged her to pursue art.
[Also this pretty well explains why I'm no longer an art teacher. Too many talented students like Georgia sitting around refusing to work!]
Georgia graduated from Chatham Episcopal Institute in June 1905 at the age of 17. She presented some of her watercolors to classmates as graduation gifts and "tore up the rest so that her student work wouldn't be around to embarrass her when she became famous."
In September she began at the Art Institute of Chicago. She lived with her aunt Ollie and uncle Charles Totto whose apartment was within walking distance of the school/museum.
After a year at the Art Institute in Chicago, Georgia returned home to Virginia for the summer where she came down with typhoid fever.
Typhoid fever deaths had occurred in Williamsburg that spring and summer and her family feared for her life. But by September she was out of danger. The high fever had caused her hair to fall out. She spent a year at home unable to return to art school.
In September 1907, she decided to go to the Art Students League in NYC where her former teacher Mrs. Willis had gone. The portrait below was painted by her classmate at the League who told her, "I'm going to be a great painter, and you will probably end up teaching painting in some girls' school."
[Note the much shorter hair after her illness. Her classmates nicknamed her Patsy.]
1908 Eugene Speicher's portrait of Georgia "Patsy" O'Keeffe. Oil on canvas (below left)
Georgia O'Keeffe, Still life with dead rabbit from her time at the Art League. She won the top still life prize of a hundred dollars with this oil painting. (above right)
The winter that Georgia O'Keeffe was at the Art League in NYC, students heard stories about some controversial drawings by French sculptor Auguste Rodin on display in a little gallery run by a photographer named Alfred Stieglitz. On a snowy January afternoon a group of students including Georgia went to see the exhibit. Someone in the group deliberately baited Stieglitz with a provocative question in order to unleash one of his famous, impassioned speeches. Georgia later said, "I had never heard anything like it, so I went into the farthest corner and waited for the storm to be over. It was too noisy. I was tired. There was nothing to sit in, so I stood."
Eight years later she painted this series of nude self portraits which are similar to the Rodins.
This week I fell in love with this series, Light Coming in on the Plains, especially the last one. She painted this series while living and teaching in Texas. She was serious in her wonder at the flat brown land with the kaleidoscopic sunrises and sunsets that played over it. For the rest of her life she would speak of the plains as her spiritual home. "That was my country––terrible winds and a wonderful emptiness."
Today's piece was inspired by this series and I wanted to work on the idea of reiteration, something I talked about in yesterday's post #deadartistssocietylessons learned. I began on beige paper and with watercolors, trying to make something really similar to Georgia's (copying pretty much.) When I got a few that I felt were similar, then I started to change up the colors.
By the time I got to that last one (orange/blue) I felt like it was starting to be more mine than Georgia's. Then I began to think how can make this even more mine or more me? I pulled out my collage papers and used that last watercolor as my inspiration.
After some playing around I come up with this collage triptych which I think gives a nod to the series that inspired it, but still is totally me. Though I don't really feel done with this. Maybe a few more iterations? Or maybe use one these collages as a thumbnail to begin a larger painting? I think that first one would look really cool about 5 feet tall! :)