Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Georgia O'keeffe's Ties to the Southwest Are Spotlighted in Exhibit

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Georgia O'keeffe's Ties to the Southwest Are Spotlighted in Exhibit

Article excerpt

GEORGIA O'KEEFFE IN NEW MEXICO: ARCHITECTURE, KATSINAM, AND THE LAND

The Montclair Art Museum, 3 S. Mountain Ave., Montclair; 973-746- 5555 or montclairartmuseum.org.

Through Jan. 20. Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month.

Admission: $12, seniors and students $10. Free from 5 to 9 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month.

"Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico," the title of the lovely new show at the Montclair Art Museum, almost sounds redundant. New Mexico? Of course. Where else would she be? O'Keeffe's weathered face, her paintings of sun-bleached cattle skulls against the azure sky and the high desert landscape are all of a piece in the popular imagination.

On the other hand, so much of her fame comes from those near- abstract flower paintings, those magnified blossoms with their suggestions of female anatomy, that there's something to be said for an exhibit emphasizing the artist's connection to the land.

The show in Montclair, organized by the Georgia O'Keeffe museum in Santa Fe and heralded here with banners all along Bloomfield Avenue, focuses on the years 1929 to 1953. This span covers O'Keeffe's first summer visit to Taos to the last year she painted its canyons, mesas and wrinkled hills.

O'Keeffe was a devout modernist who pooh-poohed literary or Freudian interpretations of her art. She drew no line between abstract and representational art, seeing both in terms of shape, line and form.

This show tries to crack that tough facade a bit, to expose O'Keeffe's attachments to Southwestern land and culture. To that end, it includes a little-known group of about a dozen paintings of katsina dolls - small, colorful figures that represent Hopi spirit beings. Several of the real ones are on view in glass cases.

For all their ethnographic importance, O'Keeffe showed little beyond visual interest in these striking figures. If anything, her attitude is playful. She zeroes in on features that are cute or endearing, such as the one she titled "Blue-Headed Indian Doll." She even painted a fake one (it wears long white pants and has a feather stuck artlessly into its head), though her title, "A Man From the Desert," suggests she knew. …

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