"Untamable Texts": The Art of Georgia O'Keeffe and Eudory Welty

By Claxton, Mae Miller | The Mississippi Quarterly, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

"Untamable Texts": The Art of Georgia O'Keeffe and Eudory Welty


Claxton, Mae Miller, The Mississippi Quarterly


ALMOST TWO DECADES AFTER HER DEATH, Georgia O'Keeffe continues to be one of the most popular American artists of the twentieth century. We hang reproductions of her paintings in our homes, classrooms, and offices and record appointments in date books featuring her work. While the art of Eudora Welty is not as ubiquitous as O'Keeffe's, she continues to exert a quiet yet important influence on many current writers, and her works continue to be widely read and admired. Welty greatly admired O'Keeffe, naming dance pioneer Martha Graham and O'Keeffe as the women she respects most. She explained in an interview: "For reasons plain to all--among them, common to both, an inviolate independence of spirit in pursuing their arts, the wholeness of their gifts of the imagination." (1) Like O'Keeffe, Welty often chose nature as a subject for her art. Both artists explore issues of gender and sexuality through the portrayal of nature in their works. They employ conventional subject matter for women, flowers and gardens, to create complex texts. Placing O'Keeffe's paintings next to Welty's stories helps us understand how these two important artists pushed their work beyond conventional borders.

Georgia O'Keeffe faced ongoing controversy about her personal and artistic life from the time of her arrival in New York City in 1918. Previously, she had corresponded with Alfred Stieglitz and showed him some of her work. Stieglitz was already an important part of the art community in New York. (2) He was well-known for his work in photography and his support of modern art (p. 4). At 291, the gallery he opened in 1905, he had organized twenty-two exhibitions of photography and forty-seven of European and American art (p. 5). He also published Camera Work, a periodical reflecting many new ideas about art. Before the 1913 Armory Show, the exhibition that introduced modern art to America, he had shown works by Cezanne, Matisse, and Picasso (p. 5). He and O'Keeffe fell in love and, although Stieglitz was married and twenty-three years older than Georgia, they moved in together.

During these early years, Stieglitz used O'Keeffe as his artistic subject as he experienced a rush of creative energy and inspiration. He photographed her feverishly. O'Keeffe later commented, "I was photographed with a kind of heat and excitement and in a way wondered what it was all about." (3) Many images are quite erotic (p. 105). One Stieglitz photograph shows the silhouette of O'Keeffe as she stands naked before a lighted window with a diaphanous curtain. Her hand is extended forward, almost as if to part the curtain. (4) Another picture shows O'Keeffe, with her hair disheveled, in a white robe. (5) She looks directly at the camera, holding her hands in front of her partially open robe. Laurie Lisle, O'Keeffe's biographer, claims that from the time that Stieglitz first saw O'Keeffe's drawings and paintings, he immediately associated the artist with her art "as part of the same elementary creative force" (p. 106). He initially photographed O'Keeffe in front of some of her drawings in her first solo show, directly connecting the body of the artist with her created visual text. Stieglitz adds another frame as O'Keeffe and her work become a photographic text (pp. 84, 88). In 1921, Stieglitz exhibited 145 photographs, and forty-five of those images were of Georgia O'Keeffe, many of them semi-nudes (p. 109). From this time until he stopped photographing in 1937, Stieglitz took 500 photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe (p. 105).

People gossiped about the relationship between the young artist and the older, famous photographer. Many found the love story of Stieglitz and O'Keeffe to be enticing, especially as documented in the photographs exhibited by Stieglitz. At the same time that O'Keeffe was beginning to exhibit her work as a new artist, Stieglitz, a well-established artist, was exhibiting his art featuring O'Keeffe as his subject. Thus, as O'Keeffe's art was made public, her body was made public as art.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Untamable Texts": The Art of Georgia O'Keeffe and Eudory Welty
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.