Georgia O’Keefe at the AGO

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is hosting an exhibition on Georgia O’Keeffe and her life. The exhibit will show more than 80 works of her art, as well as photographs from adjacent artists Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, and Paul Strand. The AGO is the exhibition’s only stop in North America.

The exhibition takes a deeper look into O’Keeffe’s art, and looks into her personal life and relationships. In focus is a perspective into this figurehead of American modernism, and her connection to the landscapes around her. She was greatly inspired by the New Mexico setting, where she spent much of her life, and where she painted a great number of her works of the desert landscape. Much of this art there was of the Cerro Padernal mesa, of which she said: “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me that if I painted enough, I could have it.”

O’Keeffe’s famous paintings also include modernist close-ups of flowers, and a long series centered around the New York architecture, painted during her time living there.

Also on display are numerous photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, O’Keeffe’s husband and professional partner. Many of his most famous photographs included portraiture and nudes of O’Keeffe, which are currently on display with the exhibition at the AGO. Stieglitz and O’Keeffe were married for 22 years and at the time of his retirement, Stieglitz had over 350 photographs of O’Keeffe.

Alongside O’Keeffe’s many paintings and Stieglitz’s photography, guests can see works by Ansel Adams. Adams was one of the many artists who were guests at the ranch in New Mexico where she created so many of her pieces. Adams’ black and white photographs of the New Mexico exposed the topography of the landscape, where O’Keeffe’s art highlighted the bright colours of the mountains and mesas.

Many of O’Keeffe’s most famous art pieces are enlarged paintings of flowers, about which she once said, “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time. We haven’t time.”

Much of her flower artwork was frequently interpreted as erotic images, or subliminally sexual in nature, and O’Keeffe expressed discomfort with this interpretation and with men discussing her art, including her own partner Stieglitz. She vehemently denied claims that her paintings were erotic in nature. She even wrote a letter in 1925 to American art patron, Mabel Dodge Luhan, asking her to write about her art from a female perspective, to counter those she was so uncomfortable with.

More than 80 of these paintings and photographs are currently featured at the AGO in Toronto. The exhibition is open until July 30th, and tickets can be purchased through AGO online.

More information can be found on the AGO’s website.

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