I’ve got Georgia on my mind.
O’Keeffe, that is.
A new exhibition opens in days at The San Diego Museum of Art featuring the iconic artist and a surprising counterpart, Henry Moore, the pre-eminent English sculptor. Their similarities and their differences up for observation by throngs of art-appreciators who are certain to come.
I will give tours; to do so I need to learn more about Moore. But what more can I learn about O’Keeffe? I have immersed myself in her endless biographies, tried fruitlessly to copy her work, mimic her lifestyle. In my book, The Orangewoods—Seasons in the Country Artfully lived—I wrote about her routine in Abiquiu, “her daily existence was spartan and fulfilling. Given to routine, she ate protein in the morning; a large, leafy green salad for lunch; and wine and cheese for dinner. Jack and I often “ate Georgia style” at dinnertime, which we savored on our Sunset Deck.”
I have visited her home and her museum. I can recount her life passages easily without review. Again, in my book, I talked about our Texas connection, “She spent the first part of her long career teaching in God-forsaken West Texas, home of my alma mater, Texas Technological University. Both Georgia and I spent time in Palo Duro Canyon in that part of the state: me, at fraternity beer busts in the 1960s; her, memorializing the site in vibrant and bold abstract paintings three decades earlier.”
I’m a Georgia groupie. A huge fan girl. I’ve tried emulating her hair style—a severe bun. Her austere black dress code. How she embraced her weathered face and form. Her insane talent. Her guts and innovative zest for her work and her lifestyle which I described in my book saying, “The lone artist embedded herself deeply into the traditions of the area. She had her Model A Ford customized so she could drive even farther into the wilderness and paint each day. She selected the Ford because of its high windows, which gave her perfect light for her paintings. She removed the driver’s seat, unbolted the passenger seat, and turned it around to face her “studio” in the backseat, which became the easel for her large canvas of the day. She created stunning masterpieces from inside the sedan.”
Easy to see why I am beyond thrilled to welcome Georgia O’Keeffe to the museum and to my everyday art-filled existence for the next months. Her giant flowers. Her purple hills, bones, crosses, skulls, and clouds will all be on display.
And I am quite certain she will hold her own in context with Henry Moore. The two artists pioneered and shared a coherent vision and approach to modernism and conveyed it over their lifetimes with gnarled tree roots and twisted driftwood, smooth and hallowed river and flint stones, animal skulls and bones, internal coils of seashells and interlocking pebbles, and unusual stone concretions.
The father of modern sculpture and the mother of American Modernism come together at the museum where I will soon be having conversations about them both and their extraordinary works of art with visitors.
In the meantime, I’ve got Georgia on my mind.
I couldn’t ask for Moore . . .