the world as I live in it.” Georgia O’Keeffe
My muse. A woman to whom life was art and art was life.
“Georgia O’Keeffe hitching a ride to Abiquiú, Ghost Ranch, 1944”- image by Maria Chabot
O’Keeffe was an artist in times when Victorian properties and point of view still held sway. From the confines of convention and conquering her own fear, she pursued adventure, experience, education, travel, and art. Inspired by Georgia, the premise of my new ceramic collection is that we are never just one thing as people with creative hearts. We answer the call to create in many ways; all that we do, then, becomes methods of expression. My collection took careful notes from Ms. O'Keeffe:
Krista Studying The Work And Words Of Georgia O'Keeffe, Tucson Arizona, February 2021, Kendyl Hawkins
Artist Tools, Tucson Arizona, February 2021, Kendyl Hawkins
“She belongs not only in the history of twentieth-century art but in the history of women, costume, architecture, home decor, gardening, Southwestern culture and photography. Future students may even give her a role in homeopathic medicine, all interests she pursued with similar passion and consistency. O’Keeffe justly belongs in more than one kind of history; her breadth of interests and her excellence in all of them are what make her such an unusual artist...O’Keeffe challenged the very idea that a modernist’s creativity need solely be vested in the production of “fine art.” (Wanda Corn, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, 283)
Georgia O’Keeffe in pencil on the reverse, 1918 Alfred Stieglitz
Georgia blurred the boundaries between the making of art and living your life as fine art. I designed the pieces in my collection to support the many ways our notions might take us as artists. The pieces belong in our hands as we get into our creative flow in our studios, as permanent fixtures in our kitchens as we plate up our latest culinary delight; when we wander the woods and clip fresh sprigs from boughs or gather the bounty from our gardens and nestle them in these pieces, their purpose is proved: they are a place to hold collected treasures. Reach for them as you photograph, paint, serve, gather, dress, arrange and share your creations with the world.
O'Keeffe Ceramic Collection, Tucson Arizona, February 2021, Kendyl Hawkins
Of the many avenues through which Georgia O’Keeffe lived artfully, one of my favorites is that of her unflinching style. Until I began studying her look more closely, I didn’t realize that her iconic style has many similarities to the pieces I enjoy wearing: black, monochrome, statement jewelry pieces (given as gifts!), oversized clothes and menswear, simple silhouettes and clothes that embraced the Southwest. I can really connect with her here; she and I share a love of the Southwest, which is not our native land, but a place that sources unique inspiration. “These sources refreshed her physically, mentally, artisitcally. The sky, the vastness, the sounds, the danger of the plains, Badlands, canyons, rocks, and bleached bones of the desert struck her as authentic and essential to her life as well as to her art. She wrote to Henry McBride from Taos in 1929, ‘You know I never feel at home in the East like I do out here- and finally feeling in the right place again-I feel like myself- and I like it-. . . Out the very large window to rich green alfalfa fields- the sage brush and beyond- a most perfect mountain- it makes me feel like flying- and I don't care what becomes of art.’” (Jack Cowart and Juan Hamilton, Georgia O’Keeffe Art and Letters, 189) I understand the impact of the western landscape on an Eastern-dweller. Interestingly, we both found the Southwest after being raised in the midwest, I came from Ohio and Georgia from Wisconsin. She lived and painted for some years in New York, but was always prone to wander. She loved to travel. At the request of a friend, she visited New Mexico and from that visit on, she began to craft her life in response to the draw of the West.
O’Keeffe photographed at home in Abiquiú, New Mexico, by Philippe Halsman, 1948
Krista As O'Keeffe, Tucson Arizona, February 2021, Kendyl Hawkins
She also became very attached to collecting and wearing scarves while living in the West. Covering her head in a scarf not only satisfied her fondness for hats but was also practical as it kept her hair from drying out and getting dirty from the constant dust.
Professional photographers were especially attracted to O’Keeffes distinctive use of hats and scarves to accessorize her dresses and jeans. Those who photographed her in the West often took close-ups of her head and profile dramatically framed by something she wore from her collection of local hats and scarves.
In the 1930’s O'keeffe also began wearing one of two pins at her neck, either at the base of her V-neck or pulling together two sides of a garment just below her chin….Judging by the many times she was photographed wearing it, a brass pin designed especially for her by Alexander Calder was her other favorite piece of jewelry. It riffed on the start of her last name: a spiral for the letter O, and then the letter K.” (Wanda Corn, Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, 126)
Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946): Georgia O’Keeffe [carrying a canvas], 1920s, gelatin silver print flush-mounted on card; courtesy the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Krista In Saguaro National Forest, Tucson Arizona, February 2021, Kendyl Hawkins
As her eyesight faded due to macular degeneration, Georgia took up ceramics at her home in New Mexico, again diversifying herself beyond niche artist and adding to her creations of sights and sounds, the creations of touch. I can’t help but feel a connection to her in all these many ways: the life of art and life filled with art, adventure, style, color, the Southwest inspiration; with this my collection, I make my ode to a remarkable woman and offer my recognition of the ways we answer the call to create and fill our lives with beauty.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Ghost Ranch, 1975 Dan Budnik
Abiquiú, New Mexico, 1974 Joe Munroe
Krista Handbuilding With Clay At The Posada, Tucson Arizona, February 2021, Kendyl Hawkins
“Her genius was her oneness with herself. Her ability to generate an aura of honest and directness. There was a connection to her internal and external world that was full of truth. It appealed to a lot of people. So her flowers are flowers in their own way. They don't allude to other flowers. When she painted the West, it was the West she sensed. There was an openness in the pictures, and a magic sense of light… She was an open person, open to new experience, in a fresh and honest way that was unique. She didn't have all of her past floating around. Well up into her nineties, her world continued to be her own. She still would do some writing and work with clay, she would enjoy a walk, a record, a bottle of wine with dinner, the fireplace and being with her dogs. Just being herself in her world. Napping when she was tired, going about her business, checking the garden and receiving visitors when she felt like it… In many ways her spirit is alive through her work.” (Jack Coawart and Juan Hamilton, Georgia O’Keeffe Art and Letters, 12)
1966. Georgia O'Keeffe sitting with her rock collection, by John Loengard
Krista worked on the imagery and storytelling portion of this project with photographer and dear friend Kendyl Hawkins at Posada in Tucson- designed by Rich and Sara Combs of The Joshua Tree House. We reimagined some of Georgia O’Keeffe’s iconic photos, updated, and added some Krista styling.
Resources For Continuing Your Own O'Keeffe Appreciation …..
The History Chicks, August 11, 2018 episode 110
The Great Women Artists Podcasts October 13, 2020 episode 44