Georgia O’Keefe as an American Icon

Georgia O’Keefe has become a mythical figure; a solitary woman ensconced in the landscape of New Mexico. As a young woman she “saw” another woman’s husband, eventually married him, and later still, experienced the emotional turmoil of his philandering. Through her work it was obvious she identified with her femininity to an almost overwhelming degree. But it was femininity with a core of iron. Her features were strongly beautiful, an integral face, and she lived in a starkly lovely New Mexico with what amounted to an adoration of the land.

Last year, in September, I was lucky enough to be able to see a lot of her work in one place at the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. I left proud of being female and American. She represents, and thus transcends, us all. Emotionally fragile beneath a veneer of reserve, tough as cactus spines when it mattered, content in her solitude . . . I understand all that. I think many women do who’ve weathered marriages, moral collapse, and time, and emerge with a clearer of picture of themselves. Georgia O’Keefe was all that we are, expanded it onto her canvas, and like the perceptual scale of her paintings, became bigger than life.

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