Georgia O’Keeffe, famous for her paintings of enormous flowers, New York skylines and burnt sienna hillscapes, is being celebrated with a major exhibition and accompanying book.
In addition to her paintings, Living Modern presents O’Keefe’s own immense material and personal archive, spanning over six decades. From her handmade clothes to her avant-garde furniture, to the New Mexico ranch that she shared with husband Alfred Stieglitz, Living Modern convincingly suggests that O’Keeffe was unified in her modernism. Unlike the other artists in her largely male circle, O’Keeffe drew a continuous line between her life, her art, and her environment.
“Color does something to me.”
The book offers fascinating insights into O’Keeffe’s personality, including a snippet from an interview in the Brooklyn Eagle. The reporter, astonished to find her home furnished and painted entirely in black and white, asked, “Don’t you like color?”, to which she replied, “Color does something to me.” Only in its absence could she think and paint freely. Although later in her life, after leaving New York for New Mexico, she would begin to introduce elements of color, O’Keeffe maintained a lifelong adherence to white walls and simple decor.
As in her home, she avoided color in her dress, favoring instead monochrome masculine or traditional Japanese-style tailoring. O’Keeffe made many of her own clothes herself, held together—as the book’s author Wanda M. Corn notes—with stitches so small it’s hard to believe they were made by ME hand. The simple lines and twists that feature heavily in her clothes—items O’Keeffe kept until she died in 1986—are mirrored in the lines on her canvases. There is, looking at these works in unison, an impression of synthesis, poise, and restraint reflective of O’Keeffe’s own life.