“Georgia O’ Keeffe: Her Carolina Story” or as I call it “Georgia O’Keeffe Begins”

Columbia Museum of Art link

At the Columbia Museum of Art’s room for temporary shows, a tiny exhibition currently commemorates Georgia O’Keeffe’s brief stint in one of Columbia’s colleges during the 1910s. The caption bedecked walls of the show proudly claimed (I think, I hope I remembered this right) that O’Keeffe used her time in the city to practice her craft before she turned into the O’Keeffe who worked with Alfred Stieglitz in New York and then later turned New Mexico into her muse.  Dividing the paintings and drawings into different rooms, the museum shows O’Keeffe at her most primordial and experimental.

However, the sketches featured has this sense of Georgia practicing what she can do with lines, such as Untitled (Abstraction) 1916. I think even the museum’s wall text noticed that too. In this work, she depicts a woman’s head, shoulders, and hair that resembles rolling fields.

The other paintings such as Trees in Autumn and Anything (Red and Green Trees) contain this amorphous quality that also indicates O’Keeffe practicing and figuring herself out. While small, her paintings are bright and colorful.

However, two pieces of art stood out to me the most. The first one came from her dabbling in sculpture. The small piece titled Abstraction, 1916 is a stylized white figure with its head down and covered only in a hooded robe. I remembered finding myself moved and entranced by the small piece of work created with only simple manipulations of the material. The second stand out piece comes from Blue Line dated from 1919. A veritable Rorschach test, it reminded me of multiple things, such as folded cloth. Displayed at the center of a wall, it acts as the culmination of her experiments and a prologue to the kind of future O’Keeffe wanted to do with her art. However, I don’t remember if the museum intended to do that. Sitting down and staring at this at the museum, I did understand why people saw women’s nether regions in her work.  However as a person who grew up watching science fiction, I interpreted Blue Line as a ship going into warp drive.

Besides her art, the museum displayed documents relating to her time in South Carolina.

All in all, while the museum had a minimal exhibition, it works to show an iconic artist’s origins.

Wow, a long time since I wrote one of these, yes?  Besides rewriting this multiple times, I had to check my facts and correct errors.


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