In 1905 Georgia travelled to Chicago to study painting at the Art
Institute of Chicago. In 1907 she enrolled at the Art Students
League in New York City, where she studied with William Merritt
Chase. During her time in New York she became familiar with the 291
Gallery owned by her future husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz.
In 1912, she and her sisters studied at university with Alon
Bement, who employed a somewhat revolutionary method in art
instruction originally conceived by Arthur Wesley Dow. In Bements
class, the students did not mechanically copy nature, but instead
were taught the principles of design using geometric shapes. They
worked at exercises that included dividing a square, working within
a circle and placing a rectangle around a drawing, then organising
the composition by rearranging, adding or eliminating elements. It
sounded dull and to most students it was. But Georgia found that
these studies gave art its structure and helped her understand the
basics of abstraction. During the 1920s OKeeffe also produced a
huge number of landscapes and botanical studies during annual trips
to Lake George. With Stieglitzs connections in the arts community
of New York from 1923 he organised an OKeeffe exhibition annually
OKeeffes work received a great deal of attention and commanded high
prices. She, however, resented the sexual connotations people
attached to her paintings, especially during the 1920s when
Freudian theories became a form of what today might be termed pop
psychology. The legacy she left behind is a unique vision that
translates the complexity of nature into simple shapes for us to
explore and make our own discoveries. She taught us there is poetry
in nature and beauty in geometry. Georgia OKeeffes long lifetime of
work shows us new ways to see the world, from her eyes to ours.
Parkstone Press Ltd
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