GEORGIA O’KEEFFE: THROUGH THE LENS
January 23rd – March 5th, 2016
The enigmatic Georgia O’Keeffe first started visiting New Mexico in 1929. The land, skies, culture, and people of Northern New Mexico had a profound effect on her life and work. She wrote, “In the evening, with the sun at your back it looks like an ocean, like water. The color up there is different…the blue-green of the sage and the mountains, the wildflowers in bloom. It’s a different kind of color from any I’d ever seen – there’s nothing like that in north Texas or even Colorado. And it’s not just the color that attracted me, either. The world is so wide up there, so big. ”
Long recognized as one of the world’s leading artists, in her personal life she protected her privacy and maintained an air of inaccessibility and an almost reverential approach to her immediate surroundings.
In her public persona O’Keeffe was photographed by many photographers. Those portraits can be described in the most traditional sense: capturing a moment, an expression, hoping to reveal her personality and looks. Arnold Newman and Yousuf Karsh made some of the best examples of these portraits. Her friends whom she invited into her life and surroundings captured the private O’Keeffe. These photographs give us insight into her world, not just as Georgia O’Keeffe the world- renowned artist, but also as O’Keeffe the woman.
Alfred Stieglitz, her husband, first introduced her to us photographically. Rather than approach portraiture as traditionally defined he believed in the “composite” portrait. He felt an individual was too complex to capture in a single image. The hundreds of photographs he made of her add up to his portrait of O’Keeffe. Few other photographers have pursued this approach to portraiture. One that comes to mind immediately is Harry Callahan whose images of his wife Eleanor are approached in a similar vein.
Scheinbaum & Russek’s Georgia O’Keeffe: Through the Lens exhibition focuses on the work of three photographers: Eliot Porter, Todd Webb and Myron Wood – all friends of Georgia O’Keeffe and all who were invited by her to photograph. Each photographer chose a different approach and in total this exhibition offers the viewer a glimpse into her private life and immediate surroundings in her home, studio and landscape.
As Stieglitz intended with his portrait of O’Keeffe we approached our exhibit to offer a composite portrait of this legendary artist who chose to live among us in this beautiful and inspiring landscape of New Mexico.
Eliot Porter shared with O’Keeffe a love for New Mexico, it’s culture and landscape, and he, like O’Keeffe, incorporated this environment into their own art. Their deep respect for each other and life-long friendship enabled Porter to make intimate and striking portraits of O’Keeffe. They shared an aesthetic, a life-style and a passion for living and working in New Mexico. O’Keeffe introduced Eliot Porter to many unique sights in New Mexico that had been inspirational to her, among them the Black Place and the White Place. Porter, in turn, shared many of his loves of the southwest with O’Keeffe by including her on several of his journeys through the Glen Canyon area. Porter had met O’Keeffe in New York while exhibiting at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery An American Place in 1939.
Todd Webb and his wife Lucille lived in Santa Fe in the l960’s and ran a wonderful bookshop and photography gallery on Canyon Road. Having met Stieglitz and O’Keeffe in New York, the Webb’s first came to explore New Mexico by O’Keeffe’s invitation. Over the years of their close friendship Todd Webb was able to record O’Keeffe’s life-style and surroundings with the intimacy that only a most welcomed friend could have made. His work explores her home, her studio and the surroundings that inspired many of her paintings. His photographs span their thirty-year friendship, dating from 1955 to 1981.
In 1979, Georgia O’Keeffe permitted Myron Wood to photograph her home in Abiquiu and in Ghost Ranch. New Mexico, its fierce light and big, open skies, it’s directness and toughness were qualities that O’Keeffe herself possessed. Myron Wood has captured those qualities in his beautiful photographs that are a tribute to O’Keeffe. Wood made hundreds of pictures, of the artist herself, the people closest to her, and most especially of the house, gardens, and surrounding landscape that was so elemental to O’Keeffe’s vision. These photographs do more than merely document the look of the house; they evoke the spirit of the place, as O’Keeffe inhabited it.