Listen to part of a talk in an art history class.
So today we are going to continue our discussion of 20th century photography in the United States.
Last time we were talking about Alfred Stieglitz and we saw that one of his goals was to introduce Americans to European Art.
Today, we are going to look at another photographer from the early 20th century—[sees hand raised]Yes, Jennifer?
Before we get to that, I had a question about Stieglitz.
Well—Stieglitz was married to Georgia O'Keeffe. Right?
That's right. Stieglitz was married to her, promoted her work and actually, took some amazing portraits of her when they were married.
For anyone who's not familiar with this, we are talking about the American painter: Georgia O'Keeffe. [writes name on board]
Ok. Well, I was wondering...Georgia O'Keeffe. You know I've heard her name so many times and I've seen some of her work, but she's not mentioned in any of our reading about photographers from that time.
Oh. Well, O'Keeffe was really more of a painter.
I thought she was a photographer, too.
I mean, I just saw one of her photographs in a museum the other day. I think it was called "Red Leaves on White" or something like that.
Oh—right … Yes, Large Dark Red Leaves on White is the complete title.
It's a fairly well-known painting by O'Keeffe.
Oh, oh, okay. What was I thinking? I guess I should have had a closer look.
No, no. That's a really good observation.
I mean, chronologically, that would be impossible.
When she did that painting, color film hadn’t even been invented yet—neither had the right technology to blow pictures up that big, to show that much detail.
But that painting, and some of her other paintings, do reveal the-the influence of photography … like, she would “crop” her images—[explaining the term] she, uh, she would make a “frame” around part of an image—say, just the very center—and then cut off certain parts—the parts outside that “frame”—to create the effect she wanted … the way a photographer does.
And those paintings are close-ups, like you might see today, of a person or a flower in a photograph.
Now, those techniques were certainly around and being used by photographers then, but just in photographs, which were smaller not as big as what O'Keeffe was painting.
Also, O'Keeffe studied under an artist named Arthur Wesley Dow,That's DOW, D-O-W, who advocated focusing on simple basic forms, like the lines of a flower and its petals and he wanted forms to be isolated from their original settings;He believed that, by doing that, an artist could reveal an object's, its essence.
He'd do things like...like...have students take a simple ordinary form, like a leaf, and explore various ways of fitting all of it into a square, maybe bending it around to make the whole thing fit into the frame. Pierre?
It sounds like maybe O'Keeffe borrowed most of her ideas. The stuff we might think of as being hers, she got them from other people...she didn’t really have a style of her own.
Well, virtually all artists are influenced by other artists—by their predecessors … by their contemporaries—their teachers … artists build on what other artists have done, but [slowly]—if they’re talented—they take it in some unique direction—to develop their own distinctive style.
O’Keeffe liked to create abstract interpretations of real objects—[providing example] in the painting Jennifer mentioned, Large Dark Red Leaves on White, in addition to exaggerating the size of the leaf, O’Keeffe juxtaposes it against a silver—or whitish—background, so that’s more of an abstract setting for it. And so on.
Now O’Keeffe wasn’t the first artist to create an abstract interpretation of a real object, but she used that approach to express her experience of the objects she was painting … so she presented a vision that people hadn’t seen before: It’s unique. It’s compelling. [clarifying]
She didn't expect other people to experience the object the way she did.
She knew they'd look at her painting and hang their own associations on it, which is true for artwork in general, I think.
That's just the way the human brain works. But at least they'd be taking a careful look at something they'd never really paid much attention to.