Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bonsho


Ringing in the New Year at the Asian

Today, the Asian will be continuing their decades long practice of ringing a bell to welcome in the New Year.

Buddhist bell (detail), 1532, Tachibana Kyubei (Japanese). Tajima province, Japan. Bronze.

The bell they use is a 16th-century Japanese temple bell, heavy and fragile at the same time. 

According to Buddhist belief, each ring wipes the 2013 slate clean of bad experiences, wrong doings, and ill luck. 

The service begins with chanting the Heart Sutra, the heart of Buddist belief.
It contains key concepts of Buddhist Philosophy. These include the skandhas, the four noble truths, the cycle of interdependence and the central concept of Mahayana Buddhism, Emptiness.

Those who gather at the Asia ring the bell 108 times, symbolizing the 108 bonno (mortal desires) that torment mankind. It’s the perfect way to greet the new year. Bask in the positive and peaceful vibes, and stick around for art activities. Read up on cool trivia regarding the bell (http://bit.ly/1cbUHjj.

Tim Hallman adds (press guy for the Asian and an all around nice person) adds: " But it’s important to remember that the bell is more than 480 years old. Like all ancient things, it should be treated gently and with respect. When you do so, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Struck at the right spot, and with the right energy, the bell makes a magical sound. You can literally feel it reverberate over your body and hear a pleasant humming whisper in your ears."

 Event starts at 11:30 am, doors open at 10 am.  



Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Bay Area Art World in 2013 - hits and misses.

It's that time of year again when I list my picks for the good, the bad and the ugly. Naturally, I realize that a show that I give 10 stars is somebody else's flop. But to each his or her own.
Jay De Feo. The Rose.

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-bay-area-art-world-2013-hits-and-misses

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Perlman Collection on line. New website for impressionist art


Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), Three Pears, ca. 1888–90
Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on cream laid paper

The Henry and Rose Pearlman Foundation, owner of 72 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, makes its collection accessible to everyone with the launch of pearlmancollection.org.

Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906), Still Life with Carafe, Bottle, and Fruit, 1906
Watercolor and soft graphite on pale buff wove paper

 The website allows visitors to enjoy individual artists and works as a private collector would – intimately and over time; to examine each work at the brushstroke level of image resolution and right up to the unframed edges of each canvas; to create their own galleries from the collection; and to save those galleries privately or share them socially.

At the heart of the Pearlman Collection are 33 works by Cézanne including 16 watercolors that are rarely exhibited because of their sensitivity to light. A masterpiece by Van Gogh, two iconic Modigliani portraits and a limestone head, seven oil paintings by Chaim Soutine and works by Gauguin, Manet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas complement each other and comprise a personal collection that reflects a modernist eye.

 Amedeo Modigliani (Italian, 1884–1920), Mateo, 1915
Brush and brown wash over graphite

The Henry and Rose Pearlman Collection is on long-term loan to The Princeton University Art Museum, where many of the major works are on display. A five-city tour of the collection’s masterpieces - organized in conjunction with Princeton – is planned for 2014-15. While individual works are often loaned to special exhibitions around the world, the collection has not been seen outside of the New York area for more than 35 years.
http://www.pearlmancollection.org

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Io Saturnalia

Saturnalia: The Party don’t Stop


by Anya Leonard

Catullus (XIV) describes it as "the best of days."

Seneca complains that the "whole mob has let itself go in pleasures" (Epistles, XVIII.3).

Pliny the Younger writes that he retired to his room while the rest of the household celebrated (Epistles, II.17.24).

It was a time when people rejoiced, visited friends, gave gag gifts, lit candles and sang in the streets - naked. Now, it would be difficult to stop a party that good, wouldn’t it? So, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that when Rome went Christian, they couldn’t just end the favorite festival of the year... they had to somehow convert it into Christmas, though perhaps with little success. 

But what was this intoxicated, Pagan, Pre-birthday party that the ancient Romans loved so dearly? It was none other than Saturnalia.

Originally celebrated on December 17th, this festivus for the rest of us was so popular that it was eventually extended over the week. It started with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, followed by a public banquet, private gift giving of gags, and ended with an all out carnival. Auspiciously meant to worship the God Saturn (or Greek Kronus), it essentially grew into an event that seems to have captured some of the best and worst of human qualities.

On the one hand, slaves were treated as equals - just for that one week, of course. They were allowed to wear their master’s clothes and a pileus, a felt cap normally worn by a freeman. Additionally, their owners waited on them (though the slaves still prepared the meal) and these temporarily unowned men were permitted to gamble and relax in public unmolested.

Moreover, It was a time for free speech, where the lower levels of society could insult the uppers without punishment. Indeed, the Augustan poet Horace called it "December liberty.”

On the other hand, murder seemed to crop up all too regularly. The Catiline conspirators intended to fire the city and kill the Senate on the Saturnalia, when everyone was busy partying (Cicero, The Third Oration Against Catiline, X). Caracalla plotted to murder his brother during the celebrations (Dio, LXXVIII.2.1). And to top it all off, there were those ‘human sacrifices’ to the god Saturn, which were mostly dead, unsuccessful gladiators, according to third century sources

Then there are the relatively harmless frat boy qualities of the festival. For instance, there was an appointed Saturnalicius princeps, similar to a ‘Lord of Misrule’ who, with the point of his finger could command celebrants to sing naked or jump into cold water. (The former being the source for modern day caroling).

Interestingly, the future emperor Nero is recorded as playing the role in his youth and while we can not say for certain how this character affected his rule, we can take a few amusing ganders.

Over the centuries many of the particulars of Saturnalia adapted, improved or were left behind, but in one way or another it was still celebrated throughout the entire Roman empire. Its popularity remained unwavered straight through the 3rd and 4th century, right up to Rome’s adoption of Christianity. Saturnalia did not completely vanish at that point... instead it was pulled into the religious bosom, where it would influence the new customs and cultures that began with early Christianity.

And so, on this festive day, we Classical Wisdom enthusiasts say: Io Saturnalia!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Free non-Christmas events during Christmas Week.

Arnold Lobel, "Old pig with pen."

In celebration of "Frog and Toad and the World of Arnold Lobel," The Contemporary Jewish Museum's Community Day is an admission-free, fun-for-all extravaganza. The exhibition features over 100 original illustrations and works on paper highlighting Lobel’s detailed illustration technique and warm, funny tales of love and friendship, mostly among animal friends. Lobel subtly reflected on human foibles in a charming world populated by a talking frog, a toad, an owl, mice, kangaroos, and other colorful creatures.
http://www.examiner.com/article/contemporary-jewish-museum-s-annual-free-day-on-xmas-day


Christmas is coming, which means you’re most likely spending the day with friends and family or stuck at work (or maybe both). If you want to get away, there are a multitude of opportunities and best of all, most of them are free.

If you’re looking to volunteer, opportunities abound, like serving meals for homeless and in-need families at Glide. More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/non-christmas-events-for-christmas-week

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Celebrate the Winter Solstice



Tributes to the Solstice: http://www.livescience.com/42152-ancient-tributes-to-witner-solstice.html

Wikipedia does its bit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice
Overview for 2014: http://www.kaykamala.com/overview2014.html

The winter time is nearing; raise your glass on high;
Prepare the meal, and let the beer and wine be drunk
To celebrate the shortest day and longest night,
On this time before the coming of deep winter.

The light dims near the edges of the darkling earth,
As men dance and sing to praise the westering sun;
http://www.timegoesby.net/elderstorytelling/2013/12/celebrate-the-solstice.html

Friday, December 20, 2013


Frank Lobdell, one of the last of the group of great painters that put Bay Area art on the map, died Saturday in Palo Alto of cardiopulmonary arrest. He was 92 and had been in declining health.
http://www.examiner.com/list/frank-lobdell-influential-bay-area-painter-dies
Review of 2010 drawing show. http://www.examiner.com/article/cantor-art-center-sixty-figure-drawings-by-frank-lobdell

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

'Emancipating the Past. Kara Walker's tales of Slavery and Power' at the Crocker.

A decade or more before Hollywood started using slavery for its exploitative value, Walker was making work that plumbed the depths of American's "peculiar institution" and mainstream society's hostile and cruel treatment to those who had been brought here forcibly from Africa to work the tobacco and cotton fields for the benefit of their white masters.

More at:  http://www.examiner.com/article/emancipating-the-past-kara-walker-s-tales-of-slavery-and-power-at-the-crocker

Monday, December 16, 2013

December plums


The recipe was originally British, hence the Continental directions for weight and temperature. But it was easy enough to convert. This is the kind of recipe that doesn't really need any specific directions - just bake until tender and eat.
  • 700g or about 15 over-ripe plums, washed, halved and stone removed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar (I used Stevia)
  • 100ml Greek yoghurt or whipping cream flavoured with vanilla essence

Directions

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) mark 5.
  1. Place the plums on an ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar.
  2. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is tender. Serve warm with Greek yoghurt or vanilla cream.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

RIP Peter O'Toole

 I think that we have lost - or almost lost - all of them, the eloquent, charismatic, witty and charming actors who elevated us just by watching them. The movies that they were in were not only entertaining but often dealt with the deeper truths of the human soul. When they were "on," they created magic.

 O'Toole spoke on many occasions about the differences in actors and acting today, versus the era in which he rose to fame. "Actors today must learn to make the 'word' fresh". By that he meant not just to enunciate, although that was certainly important, but that an actor must make words come alive, to infuse the text of a script with intelligence and meaning.


O'Toole at the 2003 Oscar ceremony, where he was awarded an honorary academy award. Nominated eight times during his career, O'Toole never won an acting gong. He holds the record for most nominations without a win. Those Oscar-nominated performances in full: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). O'Toole was initially reluctant to accept the award, writing to the academy and saying he'd still got the time to "win the lovely bugger outright".

http://www.theguardian.com/film/gallery/2013/dec/15/peter-o-toole-life-career-in-stills?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/dec/15/peter-o-toole-dies-lawrence-arabia

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10519194/Peter-OToole-obituary.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/16/movies/peter-otoole-lawrence-of-arabia-is-dead-at-81.html

Friday, December 13, 2013

Happy Birthday Emily Carr


Emily Carr (December 13, 1871 – March 2, 1945) was a Canadian artist and writer heavily inspired by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. One of the first painters in Canada to adopt a modernist and post-impressionist painting style, Carr did not receive widespread recognition for her work until later in her life.

 Google Doodle

As she matured, the subject matter of her painting shifted from aboriginal themes to landscapes, and in particular, forest scenes. As a writer, Carr was one of the earliest chroniclers of life in British Columbia. The Canadian Encyclopedia describes her as a "Canadian icon".


I don't think I have ever seen her work in person. A lot of the images that I found didn't impress me but then, there are often huge gaps between the real and what's photographed, especially in art. What I do respect is her achievement. She battled for recognition, dealt with poverty and isolation but never stopped painting.

I hadn't realized that she attended the SFAI but I did know that she was an unpopular figure, due to her frankness and refusal to kow-tow to the behavioral standards for women in her time. She was isolated, poor and struggling until the late 20's when she began to achieve recognition through the "Group of Seven," the most avant-garde Canadian painters of the time.

From then, until her death in 1942, she continued to develop as a painter, creating highly stylized and abstracted geometric forms reflecting her spiritual belief in a nature spirit, part of the culture of the indigenous native peoples of the Canadian Pacific coast. 

Blunden Harbor Totems

Emily Carr brought the north to the south; the west to the east; glimpses of the ancient culture of the indigenous peoples of the Americas to the most newly arrived Europeans on the continent.


Carr made headlines late last month when her painting "Crazy Stairs" sold at auction for $3.4-million, a record-setting amount for one of her paintings. Eight pieces by the artist were sold at the Nov. 29 auction, put on by Heffel, bringing the total amount of cash netted by the auction house for Carr’s work up to $50.6-million.
 Crazy Stairs

http://www.emilycarr.ca/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emily_Carr

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bay Area art events for December 12 - 15


 Image courtesy of Michael Yochum

Arc Gallery: "Choice," a national juried gallery show in support of women's reproductive rights - not just abortion but contraception, access to decent medical care and if and when to be a mother. The attack on women's reproductive rights has reached new lows in today's lethal political climate. The show is about women being able, without harassment or intrusive medical (i.e. politically motivated) intervention, to decide for herself.

Juror Catharine Clark of the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco selected the works of thirty-four artists for exhibition at Arc Gallery and eight additional artists to be represented in the Choice catalog and online gallery.
"Choice is binary: to take a pregnancy to term or not. As a working mother myself, it was important to choose works that convey the diverse paths women pursue."
--Juror Catharine Clark

Where: Arc Studio and Gallery, 1246 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Opening Reception: December 12th, 2013, 6 - 9 p.m.
Artist’s Talk: January 7th, 2014, 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Closing Reception: January 12th, 2014, 1–3 p.n.
Exhibition: December 12, 2013 - January 12, 2014

Sponsored by the Northern California Women's Caucus for Art.

More at: http://www.examiner.com/article/bay-area-art-events-for-december-12-15

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Happy Birthday Maillol


Happy Birthday Maillol : Aristide Joseph Bonaventure Maillol (December 8, 1861 – September 27, 1944) was a French Catalan sculptor, painter, and printmaker. In this image: Maillol at the Legion of Honor.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Friday Night Fun

I just hope it doesn't rain tonight. There is supposed to be a Valencia Street Block party and the Creativity Explored sale/opening is part of the PARTY!


The 2013 Annual Holiday Art Sale at Creativity Explored is an art lover’s shopping extravaganza, with a multitude of remarkable art—and this year they are giving 30% off all original artwork to celebrate the end of their 30th anniversary year! (NOTE: Discount does not apply to online store orders or any products.)

http://www.examiner.com/list/creativity-explored-s-annual-holiday-gallery-and-art-sale

Valencia Street Holiday Block Party: The holiday shopping season is just starting to heat up, and the merchants along Valencia Street are happy to help with whatever you need to get that special someone. The block party will feature more than 40 participating stores, with night hours and discounts, as well as each establishment offering extras such as food, drink and/or entertainment. 6-10 p.m. Friday. www.valenciastreetsf.com (Also, Friday is the Hayes Valley Block Party and there’s an Inner Sunset Sundays event this weekend.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

December a quiet month for art....not!

I thought that December would be a quiet art month but it's starting out at 120 miles an hour. First Ai Wei Wei on Alcatraz next year, new works by Wayne Thiebaud, the two shows dealing with racism in the US that I haven't written about yet, the bridge troll lands in a safe home on the other side of the bay...It's too much!

So I am posting another piece of medieval marginalia. Thanks to a couple of medieval sites, I am gaining more respect than ever before for medieval artists.

Bull blowing a horn (Walters, MS. W 102) 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A calendar page for December

Calendar page for December with a bas-de-page scene of men sledging and warming themselves by a fire, from the Golf Book (Book of Hours, Use of Rome), workshop of Simon Bening, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1540, Additional MS 24098, f. 30r 

http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2013/12/a-calendar-page-for-december-2013.html

Richmond Art Center's Annual Arts Festival

Mark your calendars for holiday fun and festivities. On Sunday, December 8, the Richmond Art Center will hold its annual arts festival. Every purchase will benefit the oldest continuously operating arts center in the East Bay.

 Slide show here: http://www.examiner.com/list/richmond-art-center-s-52nd-annual-holiday-arts-festival-sunday-december-8

Monday, December 2, 2013

Happy Birthday Georges


Georges Pierre Seurat (2 December 1859 – 29 March 1891) was a French Post-Impressionist painter and draftsman. He is noted for his innovative use of drawing media and for devising a technique of painting known as pointillism. His large-scale work "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte" (1884–1886) altered the direction of modern art by initiating Neo-impressionism, becoming one of the icons of late 19th-century painting.

His manner of weaving and layering small brushstrokes indeed achieved a tapestry-like paint surface of complementary and contrasting hues. Even Vincent van Gogh admired Seurat's expansive palette, noting on a visit to Seurat's studio the "fresh revelation of color."

He died young, of menigitis. The Louvre refused the gift of his surviving works so his parents distributed them among his friends, giving the marjority to his common law wife.

Peasant Woman Seated in the Grass (Paysanne assise dans l'herbe), 1883. Oil on canvas, 15 × 18 inches (38.1 × 46.2 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Seurat

In the words of the artist Paul Signac, Neo-Impressionism's greatest propagandist, "the separated elements will be reconstituted into brilliantly colored lights." The separation of color through individual strokes of pigment came to be known as Divisionism, while the application of precise dots of paint came to be called Pointillism.

complete works: http://www.georgesseurat.org/

http://www.artcyclopedia.com/artists/seurat_georges.html

Friday, November 29, 2013

Deconstructed flower, orange


I was fooling around with this flower piece, got frustrated and just let my brush fly over the paper. I think it works better than some of my more carefully done pieces. In any case, it was a lot of fun to do. I do realize that I get caught up in being nit picky with my art. When I see something like this, I am reminded that when I cut loose, sometimes the results are pretty good.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah


Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah -may your feast be delightful and not cut short by any crazy rushing-off-to-do-shopping.

Cosco and Nordstrom refuse to ruin Thanksgiving and so say all of us:

For those in the East Bay who wish to avoid the bridge and BART (and who can blame them), there are lots of choices:

http://www.examiner.com/article/oakland-the-black-2013-holiday-shopping-street-fair

And for those of us in San Francisco, I hardly know where to start. So many good art exhibits, museum shows and even, through SF City Guides, a way to walk off that stuffed feeling: Kristina Quinones, ArtZone 461, Studio Gallery, Green Apple and more.

http://www.examiner.com/list/sf-s-sweet-spots-to-avoid-black-friday-madness-art-books-affordable-gifts

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happy Birthday Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa

Henri Marie Raymond de Toulouse-Lautrec-Monfa or simply Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901) was a French painter, printmaker, draughtsman, and illustrator, whose immersion in the colourful and theatrical life of Paris in the late 1800s yielded a collection of exciting, elegant and provocative images of the modern and sometimes decadent life of those times. Toulouse-Lautrec is known along with Cézanne, Van Gogh, and Gauguin as one of the greatest painters of the Post-Impressionist period.


He was an aristocrat, the son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse and last in line of a family that dated back a thousand years. Henri's father was rich, handsome, and eccentric. His mother was overly devoted to her only living child. Henri was weak and often sick. By the time he was 10 he had begun to draw and paint.

 Mr. Toulouse paints Mr. Lautrec (ca. 1891)

At 12 young Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at 14 his right leg. Due to extreme inbreeding, (both his grandmothers were sisters and his parents were first cousins), his bones failed to heal properly, and his legs stopped growing. He reached young adulthood with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He is reported to have had hypertrophied genitals.

Deprived of the kind of life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived wholly for his art. He stayed in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to paint. Circuses, dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks--all these spectacles were set down on canvas or made into lithographs.

 In the Restaurant La Mie
 Toulouse-Lautrec was very much a part of all this activity. He would sit at a nightclub table, enjoying the show, drinking, and constantly sketching. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into bright-colored paintings.

 In Bed


In order to become a part of the Montmartre life--as well as to protect himself against the crowd's ridicule of his appearance--Toulouse-Lautrec began to drink heavily. The invention of the cocktail "Earthquake" or Tremblement de Terre is attributed to Toulouse-Lautrec: a potent mixture containing half absinthe and half cognac (in a wine goblet, 3 parts Absinthe and 3 parts Cognac, sometimes served with ice cubes or shaken in a cocktail shaker filled with ice).

The style and content of Lautrec's posters were heavily influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. Areas of flat color bound by strong outlines, silhouettes, cropped compositions, and oblique angles are all typical of woodblock prints by artists like Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) and Ando Hiroshige (1797–1858) . Likewise, Lautrec's promotion of individual performers is very similar to the depictions of famous actors, actresses, and courtesans from the so-called "floating world" of Edo-period Japan
 La Goule
 His size also prevented him from having a "normal" relationship with a woman and from early on, he frequented brothels. Some of his most compassionate and powerful work is of the prostitutes of 19th century Paris. Since he was a cripple himself, he could look at these women as fellow-sufferers, wounded and brutalized and suffering underneath the power and rouge that they donned for their customers.

La Toilette, 1889

In the 1890s the drinking and syphillis started to affect his health. He was confined to a sanatorium and to his mother's care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol.
Woman before a Mirror, 1897. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901)

Toulouse-Lautrec died on Sept. 9, 1901, at the family chateau of Malrome. Since then his paintings and posters--particularly theMoulin Rouge group--have been in great demand and bring high prices at auctions and art sales.

References: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/laut/hd_laut.htm
Artchive: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/T/toulouse-lautrec.htmlToulouse-Lautrec: The Soul of Montmartre (Pegasus Library)
Toulouse Lautrec, A life by Julie Frey

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Brent Bushnell and Sofia Carmi - life partners who make art that transcends boundaries.

Another in my sporadic series on artists who manage to survive in San Francisco.

San Francisco is a hard city for artists to survive in, harder now that ever. With apartments renting at $2000 a month and condos selling for five million and up, it’s become a city for the 1%.

But some artists who don't have a trust fund or a huge salary have managed to survive without compromising their vision of making art that transcends boundaries.

Just ask Sofia Carmi and Brent Bushnell who have managed to survive here for decades, with one stint “in exile” in Sacramento.

http://www.examiner.com/list/sofia-carmi-and-brent-bushnell-partners-who-make-art-that-transcends-boundaries

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday Georgia

 Georgia O'Keeffe (Nov 15, 1887–1986)

Abstraction Rose, 1927

How could I forget O'Keeffe's birthday? She was the first woman artist that I learned about. I still have the collage of images of her and her work that I made as a teenager. I idealized her and her work but that gave me hope that I too could be a "real" painter some day.

 Flower Abstraction, 1924

Later, much later, after reading many biographies of her, I realized that she was not the feminist icon that I had believed. But she was a damn fine painter.

Abstraction 1926

Beginning in the 1920s, her flower paintings made her a popular success. But they emerged from her earlier, more challenging abstract work.

When O’Keeffe was 20 (1907), she came to New York from Virginia to attend the Art Students League. There she studied with William Merritt Chase and followed his conservative painterly lead for a while. Afterward she took teaching jobs far away from the city, but kept her finger on its pulse long-distance.

In 1912 she learned of the aesthetic theory being espoused by Arthur Wesley Dow at Columbia University, a utopian vision of a consciousness-shaping art based on harmonious abstract design. Soon afterward, she was introduced to the radical thinking of the New York social critic Randolph Bourne, whose proto-feminist writings were in line with O’Keeffe’s own views of female equality and independence.


 She was working in Amarillo, Tex., in 1913 when the Armory Show hit New York, but on later trips she saw lots of new European work — Picasso, Matisse, Braque — much of it at Stieglitz’s gallery. And she gradually formed stimulating friendships with painters like Charles Demuth, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley. Dove, an abstraction pioneer, was particularly encouraging.


She  needed encouragement. Outside of narrow avant-garde circles no audience or market for abstract art existed. In the popular press it was at best dismissed as a scam and at worst reviled as un-American. But O’Keeffe’s stake in it was not commercial or social or formal. Abstraction was simply the only kind of art, she said, that let her express her deepest feelings.

What were those feelings? She couldn’t describe them. “Words and I are not good friends,” she wrote to Stieglitz in an early letter.


It is nearly impossible to talk about the work of either O’Keefe or Stieglitz without mention of the other. The personal and professional union between these two iconoclastic talents lasted for more than a quarter of a century and to this day is considered one of the most fruitful and well-known collaborations of the modernist era. The reality is somewhat different. O'Keeffe felt smothered by Stieglitz and had affairs outside their marriage. So did Steiglitz and while they never divorced, the marriage was, for all intents and purposes, over when she moved to New Mexico.

Stieglitz felt that her work was about the essence of womanhood, about the female body, about sexuality. Stieglitz emphasized that message - and the fact that he, a married man and years older than O'Keeffe was her lover - by his nude photographs of her. She posed in front of her paintings, echoing their forms with her arms and hands. He also photographed her nude body, often in close-up. The photos assured that her art would be viewed in erotic terms - terms which O'Keeffe came to loathe and reject. It's hard to feel that much sympathy for O'Keeffe. Like everything else in her life, she want to define her art herself- and the devil take the hindmost. But who could fail to see the sexual imagery in her flower paintings? She knew and didn't want to admit it publically but the erotic frisson in her work is what made her popular. After all, it was the age of Freud.


Obviously she was a willing collaborator in all of this. She posed for the pictures, helped to process them and applied the cropping and close-up techniques she learned from them to her paintings. She made many of those paintings suggestively sexual. But what was really at stake was power. O’Keeffe wanted the power to include sexuality in her art’s expressive range, without necessarily making it the subject. Stieglitz wanted the power to define her art purely in terms of feminine sexuality, and to market it accordingly.

 Radiator Building, New York, 1927

By the mid-1920s O’Keeffe had painted herself into a corner and knew she had to get out of it. She also understood that her approach to abstraction was part of the problem, and tried to change it, moving from curves to rectangles. A result was a remarkable group of small vertical pictures, inspired by New York.


While O’Keefe’s New York paintings bear a romantic character resembling that of the Romantic movement and its fascination for glowing celestial bodies and halos in mystical colors, her urban works are most closely associated with the American art movement of the 1920′s known as Precisionism, or Cubist Realism, a combination of Cubism and Realism.


Toward the end of the decade, the strains of dealing with the New York art world, her growing boredom with Lake George, and her deteriorating relationship with Stieglitz took their toll on her physical and emotional health. In response, she made her first extended trip to New Mexico in 1929. It was a visit that had a lasting impact on her life, and an immediate effect on her work. Over the next twenty years, from 1929 to 1949, she made almost annual trips to New Mexico, staying up to six months there, painting in relative solitude, then returning to New York each winter to exhibit the new work at Stieglitz's gallery. This pattern continued until she moved permanently to New Mexico in 1949.

Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue, 1931, Oil on canvas; 39 7/8 x 35 7/8 in. (101.3 x 91.1 cm) Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1952 (52.203)

The last two decades of the artist's life were relatively unproductive as ill health and blindness hindered her ability to work. When she died in 1986 at age ninety-eight, her ashes were scattered over the New Mexico landscape she had loved for more than half a century. Her rich legacy of some 900 paintings has continued to attract subsequent generations of artists and art lovers who derive inspiration from these very American images.