Friday, May 27, 2011

"I am not fine -- nothing fine about me...

And I'm not sorry about it either. I'm only what I am -- and I'm free to live the minutes as they come to me -- if you know me at all you must know me as I am. The night is very still." (from Roxana Robinson's "Life," p. 185).

This is Georgia O'Keeffe at her best: honest, feisty, serious. I love this about her. The Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico is currently showing only a few of her works, including a gorgeous painting that I had never seen before, called "A Street," from 1926. The painting doesn't portray the street at all, only the sky between two skyscrapers, with a streetlight one of the only clues to the realism of the work. The museum labels quote O'Keeffe as saying that she noticed that, as taller and taller city buildings were constructed, people looked at them, because they were so large. She said she thought that she could perhaps allow people to see flowers with the same attention if she made them large, as well. And they did start looking, she said.

Many O'Keeffe works are in storage at the moment, as the museum is given over to the show called "Shared Intelligence: Painting and the Photograph." David Hockney, a Chuck Close, Sherrie Levine... good, good art. One painter, Audrey Flack, juxtaposes faces from a source photograph by Margaret Bourke-White; the faces are the people liberated from Buchenwald in 1945, and Flack's additions, brightly-painted material goods (pearls, a silver candlestick, petit-fours) are even more emotionally jarring than Bourke-White's photograph, I think. The curators point out that many painters have used photographs as their sources but that only some, like Flack, mention this. The show puts together two photographs by Thomas Eakins, one of a tree and one of two men, and the painting "Mending the Net" from 1881. Eakins, the curators say, projected photographs onto canvas and traced them. But told no-one.  This photograph comes from the show's brochure... just look at the similarities:

The show also has a copy of David Hockney's Secret Knowledge on display -- the use of lenses, Hockney argues, shows up earlier and more universally than anyone had previously argued. Fabulous book and very compelling theory. This show should be seen. It is fine.

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