The Tacoma Art Museum (TAM) will be showcasing a large variety of Georgia O’Keefe’s work until June 7th. Julianna Verboort, spokesperson for TAM, explains that the museum brought this exhibit for many reasons: “Georgia O’Keeffe is a masterful American painter, one of the most widely recognized and respected artists of her time (and indeed overall in American art). TAM’s curator of special exhibitions, Margaret Bullock, is very well-grounded in American modernism and worked in New Mexico for a time, so TAM has the scholarship to support and interpret the works, to bring added value to our visitors with this exhibition.”
This exhibit contains 22 of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings and 42 works by her New Mexico contemporaries. The Eloquent Objects exhibit provides a short film about O’Keeffe in order for visitors to understand the context of her artwork.
O’Keeffe was inspired by the dramatic landscapes and mix of cultures in New Mexico. O’Keeffe incorporated a variety of aspects of the region of New Mexico into her still-life paintings. Her work featured strong light and bold colors, elements like rocks and trees, stripped-down forms of art and architecture, organic adobe structures, religious objects, and mixes of colors in the region. O’Keeffe’s close-up images of sun-bleached bones and desert flowers remain iconic in American art. As O’Keeffe continued to base her pieces off the Southwest region, modernists painters in New Mexico began to mimic her way of using color, shape, and space.
Verboort explains her favorite aspects of O’Keeffe’s work: “For me, her skill with shading is fascinating, the way she saw color and blended color, creating flowers that appear white but are a multitude of colors. The way she looked deeply into objects, gives her paintings a calm but steady energy, to me it is a bit hypnotic; I could see her work for hours.”
TAM is the only museum on the West Coast that showcases Georgia O’Keeffe within the context of her contemporaries from the 1920s to the 1950s. O’Keeffe’s contemporaries are painters who moved to New Mexico and worked at the same time that O’Keeffe was living there. These contemporaries include modernists Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, and artists from each of major art centers in New Mexico, like Gustave Baumann, Catherine Critcher, Eliseo Rodriguez, and more. The Eloquent Objects exhibit takes a look at the American Southwest through still-life paintings during a time when many of these contemporaries were attempting to refine individual versions of modern art.
Not only does Verboort hope that this exhibit will help the community gain an understanding of O’Keeffe’s fascination with New Mexico, but that it will also help them gain an appreciation of how she changed American art. The Southwest art movement created new ideas about how artists can view their environment and inspire people to think about how the objects that surround them every day tell a story.
“There have not been this many O’Keeffe’s on view in our region for more than a decade, so it is a rare opportunity for people here to see a range of New Mexico’s painters and many O’Keeffe’s without traveling to Santa Fe,” Verboort said. Come learn about these artists’ impressions of the environment and diverse cultures of New Mexico through still-life paintings at the TAM.