White Calla Lily With Red Background . oil, 351⁄16 x 171⁄8, gift of Anne Windfohr Marion and Anne Windfohr Phillips.
By Margaret L. Brown
There are more than 400 single-artist museums in the world today…. However, this will be the first museum in America to be devoted exclusively to a woman artist of national stature,” writes Peter Hassrick, director of the new Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, NM.
“National stature” seems an understatement, for O’Keeffe’s life and her art have risen to international cult status rivaled only by that of Frida Kahlo [swa jul 93], who is remembered in her own museum in Mexico City. While Kahlo’s charismatic reputation benefits from a short, tragic life of 46 years, O’Keeffe’s accrues from her long, joyous life of more than 90 years.
What other qualities have garnered O’Keeffe such adoration? Hassrick isolates several of them: “her mystery, her personal strength and independence … her commitment to do good work … the fundamental beauty [of her art], its expression of an inner vision, its transcendence, its empathetic portrayal of nature, its remarkable craftsmanship…. ”
O’Keeffe was a person who “looked for and found great joy in her life, especially in solitude,” concludes Hassrick. The O’Keeffe Museum promises to put that thought into perspective when it opens July 17.
Also putting that thought into perspective are the living painters featured this month. As O’Keeffe described the elements surrounding her home in Abiquiu, NM, with remarkable detachment, so too does Carl Embrey, who chronicles the architectural details and surrounding landscape of his childhood home in Hamilton, TX. While descriptive of the physical elements around him, Embrey’s empty rockers, vacant rooms and half-open or clouded windows also have a haunting psychological ambiguity that leaves us with as many questions as answers.
Equally enigmatic are Phil Epp’s starkly surreal paintings of skyscapes domin-ating the prairies in his home state of Kansas and the hills of New Mexico. Clearly enamored of these vast, empty stretches, Epp says he strives for a bit of mystery in his work. There is a presence in this nothingness; something occupies the void.”
That “something” is as hard to identify in Epp’s and Embrey’s work as it is in Gayle Crites’ interiors, landscapes and still lifes. “I’m an outsider looking in,” says the Boulder, CO, artist. “I reach strictly for the abstract elements and simplify as if I were composing haiku.” Like the fragments of a poem, the objects in Crites’ paintings are juxtaposed to allow the viewer to create a personal story beyond the edges of the image.
“Beyond the edge” is an apt description of Robert Taylor’s images. “All art consists of symbols that give birth to different emotions,” says the Oklahoma artist. “The symbols I’m interested in have to do with psychology and the human need to understand the spiritual aspects of ourselves.”
For Taylor those spiritual aspects draw heavily upon nature and its relationship to the human condition—a mysterious relationship that reverberates throughout this issue. Look for it and recognize, as Epp says, that “it isn’t a lonely view, but a reverent one.”
Featured in June 1997