1941 by Georgia O’Keeffe
MoMA, New York
Georgia O’Keeffe is known for her connotation fuelled flowers. Her oversized canvases are full of impact; a confronting reminder of the symbolic power the flower holds. O’Keeffe of course plays to this symbolism, most often concentrating on the central organs of fertilization; our viewpoint is magnified as we peer into the curved depths of the flower’s centre, framed as the petals erupt from it. Here the acid yellow and green show off O’Keeffe’s flawless blending; the colours seamlessly blend into one another carried by the purity and light of the surrounding white. It is this strength of bold colour, overwhelming in her towering canvases, that allows these paintings their enormity of presence, creating a composition of abstraction up close and a strange sense of blown up proportion from afar. In An Orchid the precision of O’Keeffe’s painting is manipulated fully in the feathered fronded ends of the petals; they ripple with energy in their hyper-realist depiction. Compositionally this painting also emphasises the explosion of colour and natural design; the flower head is suspended, pulled into place with its twisting and expressive ‘backing’ petals that make it appear star-like. The ability of O’Keeffe to take natural line and shape and manipulate it into compositional design is what has always made these paintings stand out, twisting our viewpoint with paint and perspective rather than literal alteration of shape.