Por­trait of the Artist

Ge­or­gia O’KEEFFE’S self-crafted PER­SONA is as UN­FOR­GET­TABLE as her life’s work


Ge­or­gia O’Keeffe is one

of the most iconic artists of our time, but she was also one of the most pho­tographed, a fact that was no doubt in­flu­enced by her dis­tinc­tive, min­i­mal­ist style. An ex­hibit at the Brook­lyn Mu­seum, Ge­or­gia O’Keeffe: Liv­ing Mod­ern, ex­am­ines the artist’s evolv­ing taste in fash­ion and the power of photography in craft­ing her per­sona. The show brings to­gether key paint­ings as well as jew­ellery, ac­ces­sories, and never-be­fore-seen pieces from O’Keeffe’s wardrobe as well as por­traits of her by noted pho­tog­ra­phers such as Ansel Adams, Ce­cil Beaton, Bruce We­ber and An­nie Lei­bovitz. Most no­table per­haps, is the multi-year se­ries of por­traits taken by her hus­band, pho­tog­ra­pher Al­fred Stieglitz, which largely contributed to the vast archive of O’Keeffe im­ages and to her sta­tus as a style pioneer and mod­ernist icon. Her dis­tinc­tive style was marked by an early pen­chant for bowler hats, tai­lored menswear suits, oxfords and a monochro­matic pal­ette. Later, O’Keeffe in­cor­po­rated Asian in­flu­ences into her wardrobe, in­clud­ing ki­monos, caf­tans, and capes, of­ten in her trademark black and white. The artist’s years in New Mex­ico also came to in­flu­ence her wardrobe pal­ette, when she be­gan styling her­self in the colours of the desert land­scape, in­clud­ing the yel­lows, pinks and reds of the rocks and cliffs of her sur­round­ings. “This ex­hi­bi­tion re­veals O’Keeffe’s com­mit­ment to core prin­ci­ples as­so­ci­ated with modernism—min­i­mal­ism, se­ri­al­ity, sim­pli­fi­ca­tion—not only in her art, but also in her dis­tinc­tive style of dress,” says Lisa Small, cu­ra­tor of Euro­pean paint­ing and sculp­ture at the Brook­lyn Mu­seum. Liv­ing Mod­ern also rep­re­sents a home­com­ing of sorts for O’Keeffe, who had her first solo mu­seum ex­hi­bi­tion at the Brook­lyn Mu­seum in 1927. Closer to home, don’t miss the ret­ro­spec­tive, Ge­or­gia O’Keeffe, at the Art Gallery of On­tario in Toronto, be­gin­ning April 22, with more than 80 of the artist’s works on view.

Ge­or­gia O’Keeffe: Liv­ing Mod­ern is on view at the Brook­lyn Mu­seum through July 23.

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