The most in­spir­ing woman artist ever

The Star (Kenya) - - Sasa Leisure - BY ALLA TKACHUK /@GreatWALKOfArt Alla Tkachuk founded Mo­bile Art School in Kenya. Be­come ‘Kenya Pa­tron of the Arts’, con­tact Alla for more in­for­ma­tion on alla@mo­bileartschoolinkenya.org.

Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you paint if you could? I never found a per­son who could teach me how to paint. They could tell me how to paint their paint­ings but they couldn’t tell me how to paint mine.”

This is Ge­or­gia O’Keefe ( 1887-1986 ), the first Amer­i­can mod­ernist painter. Tate Mod­ern gallery holds a ma­jor ret­ro­spec­tive of her work in Lon­don un­til Oc­to­ber 30. A farm­ers’ daugh­ter, Ge­or­gia re­solved to be­come a painter when she was 12; she re­mem­bered that very mo­ment right into her old age. After school, she went to an art col­lege in New York, and after that, to teach art in a Texas school. There, her art changed.

“I put the pic­tures I have done over the years in front of me and no­ticed all of them were done to please other peo­ple, and none to please me. So, I

cleared it all away and started again. I de­cided to put on pa­per what no­body taught me.” She pro­duced a se­ries of new ab­stract draw­ings and sent them to her friend in New York. The friend took them to a top art im­pre­sario, Al­fred Stieglitz, who ex­hib­ited them in his gallery (later, Stieglitz and Ge­or­gia got mar­ried).

Ab­stract but deeply hu­man, the work blew tra­di­tional art out of the wa­ter and made O’Keefe a star. What is O’Keefe’s ge­nius? It is her abil­ity to ab­stract forms. She called it ‘a dream-thing I do’.

Sketch­ing a nat­u­ral form first, a land­scape, for ex­am­ple, she would ab­stract it un­til her new bio-mor­phic forms rep­re­sented a pow­er­ful emo­tion, as if to say, ‘This is not the world you know, but this is the world you think you know.’ She, like Rus­sian artist Kandin­sky once said, did not em­u­late na­ture but used it as a spring­board to con­vey its ideas and emotions.

Ge­or­gia cre­ated a new visual lan­guage, and her au­dac­ity to em­brace the new keeps in­spir­ing us to­day. In 1929, in search of ‘space’, she went to New Mex­ico desert and was en­chanted by it. There, she cre­ated some of her most stun­ning paint­ings.

She painted some of its land­scapes over and over again. Each paint­ing was an ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, an ex­plo­ration, go­ing a step fur­ther. Be­com­ing a ‘spirit of the place’, a ‘high pri­est­ess of the dessert’, she died at the age of 98, quick-wit­ted and pas­sion­ate about art to the end.

/ GE­OR­GIA O’KEEFE

‘Pink Tulip’ and ‘Land­scape’.

BE THERE EVENT Jun­gle Book Mu­si­cal DATE Au­gust 7 VENUE Osh­wal Cen­tre

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