Georgia O’Keeffe: To See Takes Time

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*Drawing I*

Georgia O’Keeffe. Drawing I. 1959

Charcoal on paper: 24 7/8 × 18 7/8" (63.2 × 47.9 cm). Collection of Matthew Marks

Actor (Georgia O’Keeffe): “I’ve been flying a lot lately—I went around the world—and I noticed a surprising number of deserts and wonderful rivers. . . .There’s nothing abstract about those pictures; they are what I saw—and very realistic to me.”

Curatorial Assistant, Emily Olek: Drawing I is one in a body of works known as aerial views. They’re based on a plane ride, and these were the landscapes that she saw below. This series actually started off with ballpoint pen on paper. One of them is on a business card. There’s this immediacy, where she was almost just like, I just need to get this out of my brain and onto something so I can remember it.

And then you see her change to charcoal to focus on the gestural quality of what she was seeing, kind of how loose the landscapes were, and the curves that she was seeing. And then when you see it go to painting that’s, to me, where they become landscapes.

Curator, Samantha Friedman: O’Keeffe is finding abstractions that already exist in the world.

The very nature of drawing from that height creates a distance, creates perspective that causes a kind of defamiliarization that makes the work as strange as it is familiar, that makes it as seemingly abstract as it is grounded in something real.

I think that we underestimate how brave and radical Georgia O’Keeffe was. She was fearless in her travels, in trying new visual languages, in having the confidence in the shapes that she saw in her own head. She was fearless in both her work and her life.