Georgia O'Keeffe (arguably along with Monet and Klimt) is one of those artists most of us were exposed to early on and, like so many youthful things, many of us moved on from. It's a shame because these artists deserve attention and respect that goes beyond adolescent pining.
I've long admired the fact that not only did O'Keeffe carve out a place of her own in a nearly exclusively male art scene, but she carved out an extremely unique position too. She worked within the idiom of organic abstraction with a strong individual sensibility.
Her paintings are both conceptual and personal: Concepts of renewal and unlimited boundaries recur in her work. But it is also a mode for intense personal expression, though there's a certain aloofness and a distinct separation of feeling and object in the finished artwork. I always sense the gamut of emotion, idea and letting go while viewing her work and it makes for a beautifully unfolding experience.
Those shifting nuances seem visible in O'Keeffe's outward appearance too; maybe deliberately so. And perhaps her simultaneous and intriguing directness and aloofness is what made her such a favourite subject for so many photographers.
O'Keeffe died, aged 98, on March 6, 1986. In accordance with her wishes, she was cremated and her ashes were scattered to the wind at the top of the Pedernal Mountain, over her beloved "faraway".
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum
PBS: American Masters
Books: Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction (Whitney Museum of American Art)
Image via PBS