Alfred Stiegletz

Art on the Road: Where Tuff meets Tough

Santa Fe, Part 2: Friderike Heuer takes her camera to Georgia O'Keeffe's high desert and rethinks her attitude toward the American legend

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the second of two visual essays from northern New Mexico, photographer and artist Friderike Heuer visits Georgia O’Keefe’s home territory and revises her thinking about the artist. She also responds to O’Keeffe’s views of the land and sky with  images from her own photographic work. In Portland you can learn more about O’Keeffe at noon Tuesday, April 30, when the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust education presents Carolyn Burke discussing her book Foursome: Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Paul Strand, Rebecca Salsbury.

*

IT HAS HAPPENED TO ME AGAIN. That’s twice now, in just two years. I’ve had to revise my assessment of an artist once I got to know the history and environment that was essential to her work. The first re-evaluation took place both on an intellectual and an emotional level: where I truly disliked Frida Kahlo before, I came round.

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Gerald’s Tree I,” 1937. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Photograph by Friderike Heuer

And now I have to admit something similar is happening for Georgia O’Keeffe. I was never a fan of the endlessly repeated desert skulls or foreshortened flower paintings, imbued with sexual metaphors or gender-specific markers – references, it turns out, mostly peddled by the men in her life in the beginning of her career and appropriated by many a feminist at some later point. O’Keeffe herself rejected these interpretations just as much as being co-opted by the feminist cause. (For a thorough analysis of her relationship to feminism read Linda M. Grasso: Equal under the Sky: Georgia O’Keeffe & Twentieth-Century Feminism University of New Mexico Press, 2017)

Continues…