For years I have assumed that famous American painter Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was bisexual. Now I am not so sure any more because, I can’t find any reliable souces about her female friends having been her girlfriends. What I see is a mirage and public image, which has turned into a strong brand due to the photos that was taken of her.
The famous American photographer and curator Alfred Stieglitz, whom she married in 1924, started photographing her in 1917. He made some wonderful nude photos of her and continued to make some portraits of her seminude in front of her paintings in the 1920’ies. At the same time (in the mid 1920’ies) she was painting her amazing abstract flower paintings, close ups of red cannas white lilies, black irises, etc. Paintings which often are interpretated as erotic images … vulvas.
Stieglitz had presented his nude photos of her at his retrospective exhibition in 1921 and this made the critics see Georgia as a sexual being and interpreted her paintings as erotic images. Georgia didn’t like this label, but ever since her flower paintings has been interpreted as images visualizing love and feelings associated with sexuality.
I think that the fact that lesbian communities were more or less void of erotic art and images for women for many years is the reason why I/we have nurtured the idea that Georgia was bisexual and thus ‘one of our
artists’. If not one of us… then at least she was beautiful woman (Stieglitz’s nudes of her were stunningly beautiful!) and she was a woman, who painted paintings for us: Paintings that reflects the power of our sexuality.
The public image which Steiglitz created of Georgia as a painter and a sexual being appealed to us… a brand with a lesbian appeal.
Georgia O'Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity
American artists from Alfred Stieglitz to Andy Warhol have been enthralled by the image of Georgia O’Keeffe as a woman, painter, and celebrity. She has been photographed numerous times. ‘Georgia O’Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity’ is the first exhibition to explore the close relationship between her art and photographs taken of her. Georgia O’Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity (June 12 through September 7, 2008, the Portland Museum of Art) explored the essential role that photography played in establishing her reputation, promoting her career, and creating her public persona.
Narrator: Barbara Buhler Lynes, curator, Georgia O’Keefe Museum, 2008.
The Exhibition Catalogue
Georgia O’Keeffe and the Camera: The Art of Identity (Portland Museum of Art)
Publisher: Yale University Press (June 28, 2008)
Georgia's home in Abiquiu
The O’Keeffe home in Abiquiu is managed by the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. Through the museum you can reserve a tour and be part of a select few, who are able to tour the home from early spring through the late fall. Tours last an hour and are limited to 12 people at a time.
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Current exhibition at the museum:
Georgia O’Keeffe – Abstraction, May 28, 2010 – September 12, 2010