Date of this Version
Nebraska Art Association at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, September 9 - October 19, 1980
Georgia O'Keeffe has been honored with five retrospective exhibitions in her lifetime: in Chicago in 1943, New York in 1946, Worcester in 1960, Fort Worth in 1966, and New York in 1970. The present exhibition cannot claim the comprehensive representation of her work embodied in those shows, not can it even claim the inclusion of more than a few of her best known paintings. It is, in effect, an exhibition of a somewhat different kind. With a considerably smaller compass it shows what can be considered only a random sampling of her thematic concerns. It shows her most fully in works of the twenties and thirties; it only suggests the innovations that marked the beginning of her career and it does not even suggest the character of her work since 1960.
Given this situation, which is the result of a number of factors beyond our control, we can, and must, approach these paintings from a special point of view. Consider, if you will, that we are approaching this body of work as the only surviving remnant of a famous career. One can recall a parallel situation in the art of Simone Martini, a great and famous master, whose achievement is reduced to the evidence of a handful of works. What can we make of this experience? Here is an artist of rare individuality, not quite like any other artist of the same period. her subjects seem to derive from widely differing physical situations; a rural lakeside, urban fantasy, a desert world and solitary objects of natural origin seen close up. Within each theme the variations are sometimes only enough to avoid the charge of repetition. Some examples have about them an intensity of color and form that rivets our attention, others appear perfunctory.