Georgia O’Keeffe: Visionary In God’S Wilderness

I have picked flowers where I found them

Have picked up sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood that I liked

When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert I picked them up and took them home too

I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it.

At eighty-eight the unquestioned matriarch of modern art in America, Georgia O’Keeffe presents a unique vision in her painting and drawing—at once intensely personal and radically expressive of the strange and lively otherness of the natural world. Her works emerge like icons from a sacred pilgrimage through an inner landscape of great emotional range, or as one critic commented, hers is “an art of psychic confession, an inner recital of symbolic language, like the murmur of acolytes.” She stands before nature filled with awe and wonder, yet “paints the mountains of New Mexico as though they answered when she spoke.” (4, p. 20; the 4 and the numbers in references to follow designate the five works listed at the end of the article). The painting A Black Bird With Snow-Covered Red Hills reflects this marvelous dual quality. As Daniel Catton Rich has observed, there is about it not only “the silence of winter” but also a “suggestion of a personal winter, a personal silence” (2, p. 23).

Mediated through her powerful vision, the simple objects of her environment—large rocks or common flowers, bleached bones, a starkly colored gully or the shadows and shapes of an old adobe wall—come alive from within. In her works the very bones live and the stones ...

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