Post Numéro Trois: Georgia On My Mind
Last week I had the divine pleasure of visiting one of my favorite artists, Georgia O’Keeffe, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had the serendipitous chance to visit this museum in 2006 on a diverted road trip through Southern Colorado after the biggest snowstorm of that year…in May! That’s a fun(nish) story I’ll tell anytime you have the desire to listen 😉 .
Visiting this museum some thirteen years later I noticed totally different things about Georgia’s work. At that time in my life I had taken an acrylic painting class at the University of Vermont in my undergraduate studies in 2003. I wasn’t really painting yet besides that, although I’d stomped all over London, Paris and Spain during a semester abroad exploring as many museums as I could stomach in a 6 month period. I was completely turned on by what I saw in oil painting. When I saw Georgia O’Keeffe’s work in 2006 it was like meeting a soul sister. Her work was soft and feminine, yet rugged and strong. It explored color, shape, form and contrast of the natural world in ways that excited me. And it was simple. Not overly complicated. It felt tangible. I didn’t recognize her visual influence on me until many years of painting later when patrons and supporters suggested a likeness in some of my work. What a compliment!
This time around, I noticed Ms. O’Keeffe’s abstract pieces and their subtlety balanced beauty. I find Georgia’s work exquisite in her insane ability to know just how much was enough to express what she was intending or exploring in a piece. One of the finer skills in painting is knowing when enough is enough. And sometimes the only way to learn this is by going too far and losing the strength of the piece entirely. And doing that again. And again, until one eventually understands that more work doesn’t necessarily mean better work. She was incredibly technically skilled, and as she grew as an artist, she combined her technical understanding with the stirrings of her soul and how it related to the outer world.
“Above the Clouds 1” has new interest to me. At one time, I may have breezed past this painting due to its simplicity, but I now appreciate the nature of calm and interesting depth through use of shape created by this patterned composition. It reminds me of a photo I took from the plane on my way to New Mexico.
I learned at the museum that O’Keeffe began traveling internationally in the 50s and continued through the 70s. Much of her later work involves her perspective from the sky, above the clouds into the limitless horizons, or down below to the abstract patterns of rivers. This thrills me! Once freed from the ground by wings, Georgia was able to involve a new perspective in her work, one that is closer to omniscience. I believe international travel is one of the most inspiring threads to being a well-rounded human being. Travel offers perspective and more informed creativity. It is high on the list of life goals I mentioned in my first post, and more validated now knowing Georgia spent almost three decades exploring the globe.
In life, it’s so important to observe, ask and learn from those who come before us, especially those who stun and inspire us. Georgia is that to so many. What a legacy!
Thanks so much for reading. I hope this inspires you to follow what’s in your heart just a little more.