“Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern” at Reynolda House Museum of American Art

– Georgia O’Keeffe is
important in American history because she was one
of our first artists who went forward with the
idea of art as an abstraction and art as what we
call in a modern style. She was an early 20th century
artist, and she was a woman, and we have very few other women who were making
such vital choices as being modern artists
as O’Keeffe did in
her own lifetime. I was inspired to
create this exhibition because I was lucky enough
to find out and discover that she had closets filled
with her clothes when she died. Those clothes were so startling in the ways in which
they manifested a style so similar to the style I
think of her painting in that I began to come up
with this research question, how could we describe
a woman’s aesthetic who was not only in the studio but also in the domestic sphere, how she dressed and how
she created her homes. – This exhibition, Georgia
O’Keeffe: Living Modern, really comes to us
as the launchpad for
our centennial year. We had an inquiry from
the Brooklyn Museum about two years ago, two
and a half years ago, and they asked if they
might borrow our pastel by Georgia O’Keeffe,
Pool in the Woods, and upon hearing that,
I kind of thought, gee, this major
O’Keeffe exhibition would be such a great complement
here at Reynolda House. Looking at the context
of Reynolda as a museum, having this exhibition
dedicated to Georgia O’Keeffe, her paintings, her
style, her clothing all seen within this institution
in a domestic setting and in the formal galleries
of our Babcock Wing, it’s a great way to kick
off our centennial year. So this is not only an
exhibition for Winston-Salem; it’s an exhibition for the
state of North Carolina. It’s an exhibition for the southeastern region
of our country. And I think it solidly puts Reynolda House Museum
of American Art on the national map. To be able to
attract an exhibition of this caliber and scope here to Winston-Salem, city
of arts and innovation, is just a fitting way to launch this fabulous year
for our institution. – This exhibition also,
in addition to presenting a number of Georgia
O’Keeffe’s paintings, presents her as a fashion icon, or in a way, represents
her as a fashion icon. Photographers through
the late 20th century made pilgrimages to New Mexico to photograph Georgia
O’Keeffe in her adobe home among the bones and
horns that she painted. And for most
American celebrities, as we get older, the
celebrity diminishes, but Georgia O’Keeffe got more
and more and more famous, and she lived to the age of 98, so there was time for her
style that she kept to. She would always wear
one of two uniforms. One is a black suit, and the
other was the wrap dress, very light, easy to
wrap across herself, and to tramp through the desert
photographing and painting, because she never
stopped hiking. William Butler Yeats,
the poet, said, “You have time in your
life to perfect your work “or to perfect your life.” Georgia O’Keeffe had
time to really create an original style of painting, but she also had time to really create a personal style that was recognized as very
beautiful and that made her one of the most famous visually
people in American culture. – I hope that people learn and have a deeper understanding
of Georgia O’Keeffe as an iconic American artist, that they get these glimpses
into her personal life and her personal way of being and that they relate that to
their own personal way of being because we all have a style, and we’re learning
about O’Keeffe’s style as we see this exhibition. – It’s that development
of a personal style that I think makes
her seem very modern. – Georgia O’Keeffe was someone who did more than
just paint flowers. I think seeing her
as a whole person and how she integrated
her art with her life is a really interesting concept, and it’s not one that
you see very often. – My favorite works are probably
the early shell paintings. We have some pink shells,
and there is a painting of a beautiful mussel with
another clam shell inside it, and it’s the reflection,
the surfaces are, they’re smooth and round which makes you wanna
reach out and touch. – You know, it’s hard
to pick a favorite, but I have a couple. One is Black Patio Door. It’s a painting
that’s on loan to us from the Amon Carter
Museum of American Art, and I worked there
for about eight years, so seeing that painting
in our galleries is like a very personal special
homecoming with that museum. I think one of the
other stellar standouts that really distinguishes
this exhibition from other shows about
O’Keeffe is the clothing, a chance to get inside
really the closets of Georgia O’Keeffe and to see how she fashioned
herself as a modern woman and to see clothing
that probably has her own hand-stitched
work on it. – [Wanda] I realize
that O’Keeffe had a wonderful skill
as a seamstress, and I’m very proud
to be able to say that we can attribute
several blouses, the beautiful silk tunics
and dresses and suits, we can attribute
those to her hand and her skills as a seamstress. I think people who
sew will recognize that immediately is
very skillful work. – [Rebecca] You see a lot
of O’Keeffe exhibitions, but you don’t see a lot
of O’Keeffe exhibitions that have the depth of this one. – [Deborah] Georgia
O’Keeffe: Living Modern runs through November 19th at the Reynolda House
Museum of American Art. The museum is at 2250 Reynolda
Road in Winston-Salem, and the gallery is open
Tuesday through Sunday. To purchase your time ticket, go to reynoldahouse.org. It’s also a great time to
explore the Reynolda House as it celebrates its
centennial this year.

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