Georgia O’Keeffe review

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Very few shows combine the many different challenges women face in art, more than this new and long awaited retrospective of Georgia O’Keeffe, At the Tate this summer the largest ever outside of America. Her work and life covered, painting, photography, female identity and the male gaze, these are just some of the main strands that converge within her work follow. Georgia O’Keeffe was a role model for many women artists.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s artistic practise has spanned many decades as she live to be 98, living through many trials and tribulations this world encountered along the way. For a time she was married to the famous photographer Alfred Steiglitz in 1924, for whom she became a muse, posing often for him clothed as well as in the nude. He also promoted her within his circle of friends; unbeknown to them she became a pioneer of American abstraction.

That is just what O’Keeffe would have wanted to be recognised as, as a pioneering artist and not as this feminine, emotional floral painting female artists who’s work depicts the female form, as her forma husband implied.

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Women artist throughout history are generally overlooked and this is one reason I choose to see this show, I like her work, but I never saw any connection with my own work, until I saw her paintings close-up. She is not simply showing us paintings of flowers and landscapes, O’Keeffe is showing us how to re look at the every day shape and form, colour and tone of the world around us. In a different way to what her counterpart male artists might have done I love this quote from her

“A woman who has lived many things and who sees lines and colours as an expression of living might say something that a man can’t – I feel there is something unexplored about women that only a woman can explore – the men have done all they can do about it.”

How light changes the way we see an image and how painting the shapes of flowers and landscapes and objects can evoke movement and different feelings and memories within whoever is viewing it.

The inclusion of photography of he ex husband is interesting, but there is far too much of it and for me shows a lack of confidence by the Tate to let a female artist with singular medium show.

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Her New Mexico home in Abiquiui, now open to the public, still attracts an array of tourists. O’Keeffe absorbed the landscape and language of her adopted home in New Mexico with a ferocity and a single mindedness. Her best-known subject matter is the large and eye-catching flowers.As with that of Paul Cézanne when he painted and repainted Montagne Sainte-Victoire.

This exhibition covers her time spent in New York City, and in Lake George,where she spent summers during the early days of her marriage to Steiglitz. Her New York paintings, often created from a high perspective, encapsulate a city bathed in a dramatic night-time light.

O’Keeffe’s fiery spirit led her to take long reclusive walks in the remote places around her home. This determination led to her obsession with objects and the views she personally experienced.

 

 

She is best known for her flowers but sadly this show is lacking some of the great blooms, including the luxurious purple iris is not being shown. She created these flowers for people to stop and see what she was seeing. Something close up, delicate and fleeting but instead what the view saw as she put it “… nobody sees a flower… well I made you take time to look…and when you took time …you hung your own associations with flowers on my flower as if that’s what I see and think… and I don’t”

 

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This is a very different show, a collection works celebrating a woman artist,who paints both surreal and abstract imagery, that is both delicate and strong and can stand very well on its own yet the Tate in trying to make O’Keeffe seem progressive there is a constant intervention of male artists, that seem unnecessary.

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