Georgia on My Mind: Famous Photographers Capture Georgia O'Keeffe

Article excerpt

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE (1887-1986) is best known for her paintings of large-scale flowers, New York cityscapes, animal bones, and the landscape of New Mexico. Her extraordinary career focused first on a highly innovative exploration of abstraction and shifted towards powerful representation and heightened realism after the mid 1920s. "Georgia O'Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity" explores the essential role that photography played in establishing her reputation, promoting her career, and creating her public persona. O'Keeffe's lasting fame rests on the strength of her work and the romantic story of her life. Photographs made by her art dealer-husband, her friends, celebrity portraitists, and photojournalists all serve to tell various versions of that tale.

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O'Keeffe and her connection with photography began with Alfred Stieglitz in New York in 1917. Early in her career, she primarily was an abstract artist and a leading member of one of the avant-garde art movements that blossomed in New York in the 1910s and 1920s.

It was Stieglitz's version of O'Keeffe's life, told through the eyes of a modern art impresario and impassioned lover, that captured the attention of the critics and press. His engaging photographs of O'Keeffe established her first public image as a sexually liberated woman. Stieglitz not only photographed her, but promoted her work at his gallery and they later were married.

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A shift in O'Keeffe's persona and art can be seen after she traveled from New York to New Mexico in 1929. Pictures of her there by photographers such as Ansel Adams, John Loengard, and Todd Webb increasingly shaped a new public image of the artist--as a rugged individualist whose hard work and determination allowed her to realize herself fully as an artist and a person. She finally settled in New Mexico in 1949. …