Georgia on our minds
O’Keeffe in Process
Visitors to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Art will find no shortage of O’Keeffe paintings on view this fall. O’Keeffe in Process, at NMMoA, draws on the collections of both museums to present an overview of the work produced throughout her career. The opening of From New York to New Mexico: Masterworks of American Modernism From The Vilcek Foundation Collection, now on exhibit at the O’Keeffe , and An
American Modernism at NMMoA, which both contain examples of her work, places her in the context of a unique set of likeminded artists who, after making a name for themselves on the East Coast, headed West to chase an artistic version of the American dream. Among them were John Marin, Stuart Davis, John Sloan, and Marsden Hartley. Despite their successes, none of them ever became as synonymous with the Southwest as O’Keeffe did.
O’Keeffe in Process focuses on the shifting subject matter in the artist’s works: portraits of family members created as a student in 1905, the moody landscapes and floral compositions painted at Lake George, her desert landscapes, and abstractions. Certain shapes appealed to O’Keeffe and came into her compositions time and again. For instance, the shape of the Pedernal, the narrow northern New Mexico mesa O’Keeffe painted several times, is foreshadowed in the shape of a house in House With Tree — Red, a watercolor from 1916. The watercolor’s somber hues suggest Lake George, where O’Keeffe was a frequent visitor to the family home of Alfred Stieglitz, primarily throughout the 1920s. In the ‘30s, she went back and forth from New Mexico to New York, developing two distinct bodies of work, both recognizably O’Keeffe and equally evocative of a sense of place.
O’Keeffe also worked with abstraction throughout her lifetime. The shapes and forms within her compositions were drawn from the same natural sources as her representational works. Pairing paintings such as her Chama River, Ghost Ranch, New Mexico from 1937 and On the
River (From the River Light Blue), a composition from nearly 30 years later, shows this relationship between representation and abstraction. O’Keefe’s prodigious output is a testament to the enduring influence of place on her subject matter. — Michael Abatemarco
“O’Keeffe in Process” is on exhibit at the New Mexico Museum of Art (107 W. Palace Ave.) through Jan. 17, 2016. Entrance is by museum admission; call 505-476-5072.