You know those—ahem—sensual flower paintings that launched Georgia O’Keeffe into modern art stardom? Yeah, they had nothing to do with the deserts of New Mexico with which she’s so closely associated. “Think about it,” says de Young Museum curator Timothy Anglin Burgard. “Those kinds of flowers don’t grow in the desert.” (They also had nothing to do with lady parts, says the curator, citing O'Keeffe's staunch denials about any vaginal references in her art. Sorry to disappoint you.) But the artist's floral subjects are abundant at Lake George, the upstate New York tourist destination where O’Keeffe essentially became O’Keeffe.
Enter the de Young’s "Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George," an exhibit whose sole purpose is to educate you on the many misunderstood aspects of the iconic abstract painter. The exhibition is rife with your favorite flowers-that-are-not-genitals, landscapes that echo the mountains of Taos (except, you know, in upstate New York), and disorienting still lifes, and also offers the backstory of O’Keeffe’s rise to fame. By the time you leave, you’ll see the aging woman holding a cattle skull in the desert of Santa Fe in a brand new light.
Feb. 15 – May 11, deyoung.famsf.org
Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco.