5.2.2023 – expressionistic

or idiosyncratic
Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Evening Star No.III,” from 1917, in the exhibition “To See Takes Time.”
Credit…Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; via Museum of Modern Art

The O’Keeffe catalog raisonné, with its staggering wealth of art, makes two opposing points about the MoMA show. One is that there are several works whose inclusion would have shown the evolution in certain groupings, strengthening the curators’ notion of O’Keeffe’s “serial practice.”

The other is that the catalog raisonné presents a more diverse, less restrained and more unsettling O’Keeffe than is generally known — by turn expressionistic, akin to folk art or otherwise idiosyncratic. Some museum should throw caution to the wind and wrestle that O’Keeffe onto its walls. But it would take a degree of nerve, a love of visual impact and a reinvention of connoisseurship that few museums seem able to accommodate these days.

From the review, Georgia O’Keeffe, ‘Modernized’ by MoMA, by Roberta Smith.

And a catalogue raisonné is a comprehensive, annotated listing of all the known works of an artist either in a particular medium or all media.

Yep … I had to look it up.

I have always enjoyed the art of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Folks say that we all SEE the same things but we react or respond differently to what we see,

What I see in Ms. O’Keeffe is the color and the images.

My reaction, my response, is to sense, to feel the utter unbound freedom to feel.

I see her swoops and swirls and color and I can feel something in me gets unlocked.

When I was about 4 years old, I went through my sisters desk and found some magic markers.

In those days a magic marker was white and about 3 inches long with a short cap and a wrapper of the color that matched the color of marker.

I don’t know what the were made from but the colors they left defined the word ‘indelible’.

Once you got that marker on paper, or through the many pages of paper that the color leached through, or your fingers or whatever, it was there permanently.

There was also a strong smell, like mimeograph ink, to these markers.

These markers also had their own sound.

When you used one, they made a high pitched squeal or squeak as the tip was moved over the surface of whatever you were magically marking.

I know all this because when I found my sisters magic markers, I took them back to my bedroom that I shared with my two younger brothers and looked at the bedroom walls and saw a blank canvas.

I can still hear the squeal.

I can smell the smell.

I can still feel the utter unbound freedom as I covered the walls of my bedroom with swoops and swirls of magic marker.

I stood in front of that blank painted plaster and swung my short 4 year old arms in full circle after circle after circle.

I have never felt anything like it since but looking at the work of Ms. O’Keeffe, the I can hear the tintinnabulations of this moment.

I call also hear my Mom when she walked into the room.

I think you will understand that seeking to understand if what I did was expressionistic or idiosyncratic was not what went through my Mom’s mind when she saw her walls.

As I remember it, it took many many coats of paint to cover up my swoops and swirls.

That house is still standing and if I know anything about magic markers, those swoops and swirls are still there waiting to be restored.

I wonder about that sometimes.

And I enjoy the work of Georgia O’Keefe.

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