Georgia O’Keeffe Essay

Georgia O’ Keeffe is a famous female artist from the early 1900’s. She was considered part of the modern art era. My mother recommended I write this paper on O’Keeffe because she felt she was such a tremendous and timeless artist. She is considered to be an abstract artist who had the extraordinary skill of taking an everyday object, enlarging it to a certain focal point creating a new abstract view (Felder 37). This caught my attention because of the current project we are drawing. Art has never been a strong area for me. However, I am really learning to appreciate what it brings to the world. I am drawing a still life currently of a heel.

Although it is a lot more modern than many of the drawings O’Keefe has done, it still has a lot of similar aspects, such as the focusing in on one specific piece of something. O’Keeffe depicted scenes of flowers, landscapes, and still life’s. Often her work contained “richly colored forms, abstract shapes, flowers, buildings, bones, hills, trees, clouds, sky, and stones (Castro 1). These ingredients garnered her with admirers and a legacy for a new style of painting. We have many pictures of landscape shots and close ups of specific flowers in my home, and I absolutely adore them because of their calmness.

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During the latter half of O’Keeffe’s career, she moved to the American southwest. This area became the main subject of her paintings, making some of her most celebrated work. In her artwork three main art foundations she uses are color, value, and shape. The first art principle that is evident in O’Keeffe’s art is color. Particularly in her landscapes and floral paintings O’Keeffe uses a blend of many different shades of one particular color. Especially once she started depicting the American Southwest, color was a very important part of that piece.

In her painting Black Iris III she uses the variation of a dark red-blue to create the shape of the iris. In order to create the inner depths of the flower and represent it fairly she uses a deep shade of red – blue to make the center. She then gradually lightens up the color to make the outer petals of the flower, mixing the dark and light shades to create the shape of the petals. In Kerstin Stremmel’s book, Realism, she discusses the painting Black Iris III. Stremmel say that the variations and depth of the color creates an aesthetic balance and erotic effect that critics praise (72).

I love the picture of the Black Iris III because of the drastic color fading. Another painting of hers that shares the same qualities is Red Canna. In this painting she used different shades of red-yellow and red-blue to create the petals and shapes of the flower. Wayne Craven commented on her ability to use color saying that “she treated color and form as separate entities”, meanings that color is a tool, and can be completely independent of form. Another element that is prevalently used in her pieces that tie in with color is value. O’Keeffe was able to create value with these different shades of color.

Making a color move up or down on the scale can create distance, something that she exemplified. In her painting Abstraction she uses a gray scale to make this distance, also creating a three-d effect. The edges and ridges created by the shading of the different grays make the painting look as if a tee-pee is the center of the picture with an abstract background. This ability to use value to create an abstract picture is also seen in her in her charcoal Untitled (New York). O’Keeffe uses the darker shade of gray to create a ghost outline of New York buildings.

Often she would use charcoal to draw the skeleton of her subject and the use a wet brush to smear the charcoal (Fine, Glassman, Lynes, Walsh 62). Washing the charcoal created shadows and gave value to the drawing. O’Keeffe was very skilled in her techniques because she had extensively trained in her field of art. Giving a piece of artwork value, with shadows and shading is very difficult and I am very impressed at how well her pieces display such work. The final evident that is very common in O’Keeffe’s art is shape. Color and value come together to make the shapes seen in her work.

As the authors Fine, Glassman, Lynes, and Walsh say in their book On Paper Georgia O’Keeffe “abstract color defines the shape (63)”. This statement sums up her ability to create shapes. In her floral and landscape paintings, she is able to make the structures of the petal, mountains, or trees by using different colors. Even in her abstracts one is able to make a shape out of the colors and value she uses to define lines. In her painting , East River, the sky line of a city is clearly outlined in the foreground. O’Keeffe uses a deep navy to create this shape, and a light navy behind it to make the skyline pop.

This is not the only example of where shape is clearly defined in her work. Another is in her painting, Train at Night in the Desert, this is a simple example of her making shapes from colors. In the print the shape of a train is visible with a dark body, and headlight. Also to add to the image in white clouds of dust or smoke flowing from the train bordered with blue, yellow, and blue-green brush strokes. The circular strokes create the shape of a rounded cloud. They also start small and grow larger, letting the observer know that the train is coming head on.

O’Keeffe’s ability to create shape with the use of color and value helped her develop some of her best works. However, this piece is amazing, it is one of my least favorites, in comparison to her depiction of flowers. Three of the basic elements of art are common in Georgia O’Keeffe’s work: color, value, and shape. Her artwork stood out to me, while I was researching different time periods because she influenced me from her masterpieces which are easily recognized. She had a knack for perfection, and wanted the viewer to know easily the meaning of her work.

Fine, Glassman, Lyne, and Walsh describe her work in admiration saying “The very act of looking at O’Keeffe’s art can cause one to reconsider the exquisite beauty in the variation of color, tone, and texture found on the surface of a work or in the objects and forms around us (77). ” She skillfully played of each of those three elements to create one another. O’Keeffe used color to create value and color and value to make shapes. My mother was right in suggesting such an amazing artist for me to research, I am hopeful to one day be able to adorn my house with any of O’Keeffe’s masterpieces.

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