When I was in the process of thinking of what I wanted to write for this blog post, nothing felt more fitting than the thought of talking about this artist. She played a huge part in my first studio project during my first year as an official Architecture student at UoN and was part of my interview for Crop Up. During an impromptu round of quickfire questions in the interview, we were asked to name 2 artists that we would take with us had we been stranded in a dessert. She was the first thought that popped into my head, probably because of how much I had researched about her, her life and her work a year earlier. Therefore, I’ve decided it’s meant to be. Cliché, I know.
Georgia O’Keeffe was an American artist best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, NYC skyscrapers and New Mexico landscapes. She has been recognised as the “Mother of American modernism” and was arguably years ahead of her time in more ways than one. She successfully managed to thrive in a patriarchal society, where men were the leaders and women were constantly fighting to escape the shadows. She made it her mission to paint nature in a way that conveyed how it made her feel and always worked meticulously. She would place her drawings in named file folders, take photographs of her still subjects from many vantage points in different lights and brush her brushes regularly and extremely carefully.
“I have picked flowers where I found them, have picked up seashells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were seashells and rocks and pieces of wood that I liked. When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert, I picked them up and took them home too. I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.”
— Georgia O’Keeffe
Our project asked for everyone to pick an artist or a sculptor (specifically not an architect) that we could base our design on. Once we had decided, we had to thoroughly research them and decide which point in their life we wanted them to hypothetically be for us to design a house and a personal studio. I chose to base my study on when she was in her 60s, after her husband had passed away. Even though many had questioned the particular relationship and regardless of the ups and downs the pair had faced, I believe his death was still a great loss in her life; one that she truly had to deal with. My design generator was “A safe refuge to escape grief” and I ended up connecting with how she might have been feeling during that time on a larger extent than I had originally imagined. I wanted the house to feel like a safe place for her to grieve and express herself in and act as an anchor in her ever-changing everyday life.
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.”
— Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe set a precedent for future artists of the 20th century, as well as women and individuals who wished to strive for something other than the norm.
She is someone who practically redefined the Modernism movement at a time where women were looked down upon repeatedly. Ever since her days at college, she painted her own interpretations of the objects she had been instructed to simply replicate. She had sought treatment for depression in the past, which was temporarily reflected upon her art as her personal relationships often overshadowed her artistic passion. Yet she always managed to find solitude in her work, blocking everything else out.
Undoubtedly, in her 98 years on earth, Georgia O’Keeffe reinvented art and made herself an icon.
Written by Zoe Socratous