Georgia O’Keeffe at The Hyde
Georgia O’Keeffe is best known for her paintings of Southwestern landscapes, bones and flowers, but her body of work is much richer and more varied than most people realize.
On Sunday, I traveled to Glens Falls and took in the Hyde Collection’s ongoing O’Keeffe exhibit, “Modern Nature: Georgia O’Keeffe and Lake George,” which showcases the work O’Keeffe produced while living on Lake George in the Adirondacks, on the family estate of Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and art promoter who was her husband. “I wish you could see this place. There’s something so perfect about the lake and the trees,” O’Keeffe wrote to her friend Sherwood Anderson in 1923.
I don’t know that I’d seen any of the five-dozen or so paintings featured in the exhibit before, and I was blown away by O’Keeffe’s lush and abstract representations of upstate New York. A 1922 painting titled “Lake George (formerly Reflection Seascape)” depicts blue-green mountains reflected in the lake’s deep, pure waters; like so much of O’Keeffe’s work, the curves of the subject resemble those of the human body. In one particularly beautiful painting, “Starlight Night, Lake George,” the land melts into the sea, illuminated by the faint, soft light of the stars and the harsher, man-made lights on the opposite shore.
In each painting, O’Keeffe’s unique take on the world shines through. We see the familiar sights and scenes of Lake George through her eyes, and her paintbrush transforms the area into a mysterious dreamscape of unusual shapes, colors and perspectives. “You can really feel the attitude of the trees,” my 13-year-old friend said, and I thought his observation was a good one, because O’Keeffe’s paintings teem with life.
I’ve always liked O’Keeffe’s work, but after seeing this exhibit, I like it even more. And I’m even more perplexed by the people who don’t really like her work. If the exhibit hadn’t been so crowded, I would have happily looked at every painting again. These paintings might not be as well known as some of O’Keeffe’s more famous works, but they should be.
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