Merrill: Solitary O'Keefe differed from Taos artists
By LINDSAY FRANK
Georgia O'Keefe was an outsider among her contemporaries, Christopher Merrill, a professor of English at Holy Cross College in Wooster, Mass., said in his lecture Tuesday.
"She was really a solitary; she's the quintessential outsider," he said.
According to Merrill, O'Keefe's style and outlook differed especially from the Taos artists, despite the fact that she spent a large portion of her life living and painting in New Mexico.
"O'Keefe wanted to bring what was far away and unfocused up close so we could see it anew," said Merrill.
Unlike the Taos artists, O'Keefe focused her attention on inanimate objects like her well-known flowers, bones and landscapes as opposed to images of individuals. Merrill said that this difference proved to be beneficial to O'Keefe's work.
"I think the distance from mainstream, her distance from what 'the boys' were doing was crucial for her," he said.
For O'Keefe the process of uncovering a spiritual meaning behind her subjects was key to what Merrill called "her need to make known the unknown."
O'Keefe often painted her subjects several times. She usually began with realistic interpretations and moved to abstract compositions in what Merrill called an effort "to focus on what was most remote".
"She was not going to confine herself, and therefore moved in between the two [methods of painting]," he said.
Merrill also emphasized O'Keefe's remarkable attitude regarding the relationship artists have with their work.
"She understood how as an artist you do your work and then leave it behind," he said.
He also said that in the 1950s, O'Keefe kept a garbage can specifically for the burning of her artwork, and that she burned between 700 and 800 paintings during that decade.
All News Stories for Wednesday, September 15, 1999