Thursday, February 10, 2011

From Art to Zombie Ghosts - My Appreciation for the Little Things

A long time ago - back in the idyllic, golden days when I talked about art all day and drove my roommates insane with art fun facts and crazy color-coded post-its helping me study for exams (it made sense to me.)  In the before times when I didn’t really even know what an expense report was, let alone have the faintest notion of the (roughly, without a hint of hyperbole) six hundred and forth-three thousand different ways one can be done incorrectly  - I once had an argument with an entire art history classroom, including one Polish professor who I’m pretty sure was and is at least partially insane (in the best possible way, of course.)

The topic of discussion that day, and the subject matter upon which I apparently had a different opinion than that entire collection of mostly intelligent people, was Georgia O’Keefe.  It still sort of shocks me that I went to a women’s college where we were taught and asked to think critically (that’s not the shocking part, shut up) and that whole classroom was so completely convinced of the ready-made explanation of Georgia O’Keefe’s art.  
Alright, let's just get this out of the way right away. Yes, a fair number of O'Keefe's most recognizable work - particularly those depictions of flowers as if seen very close-up kind of look like vaginas. Because, well, when you think about it a lot of flowers kind of look like vaginas. Kind of where that whole "blossoming flower" analogy came from. It has become a widely accepted opinion that O'Keefe's intention was to create just that impression.
I'm not sure I agree with that conclusion. O'Keefe's husband and promoter, photographer Alfred Stieglitz frequently highlighted her work in his galleries that no doubt helped her reach the level of acclaim she did. However, O'Keefe was one of Stieglitz's favorite subjects for his own work and he, on occasion, hung O'Keefe's work amid his own, revealing depictions of her. Even in the 20's, sex sells. I mean, really? If you're looking at a photograph of a naked woman and then look at an extremely close-up view of a flower, is you mind really not going to go there? Of course your mind is going to go there.
I'm not saying that's wrong. And I'm not saying that the opinion that her work was a bold, if veiled, statement on female sexuality is wrong. I'm just saying, I choose to see her work in a different way. Based on her whole body of work I really just believe that Georgia O'Keefe was a woman who made a point to see and call out the every day beauty of the world around her. I've always thought that those gigantic pictures of a single flower? To me those are a way of taking something that is small, insignificant and frequently overlooked and making it huge and significant and very difficult to ignore.  It is literally saying "Hey! Look at how incredibly beautiful a single flower can be if you just take the time to look at it. Look at how cool a building can look at night if you just look up. How cool does this pile of rocks look?"
Maybe I just saw The Crow at too impressionable an age but I believe heavily in taking pleasure in the little things. And as such I just can't help but want to find the beauty in the little things, in the details that can easily get overlooked. In the words of Eric Draven, "believe me, nothing is trivial."
I don't know, maybe it's just that I like the idea of it. That it fits pretty well with my own personal view on life. Or maybe it's just that I have a hard time looking at her work and thinking "it looks like a giant vagina" without sounding like a grunting idiot in my own mind. But the way I see it, Georgia O'Keefe's work was and is a message to literally stop and smell the roses.
I know that got a little art history major-y there. I've just been musing on this for a while now. Got myself good and worked up.
The building where I work has some ice problems. By that I mean we manage to get a lot of ice buildup on the sidewalk where pretty much every one has to walk to get to their cars at night. They mark the really bad patches with those bright orange traffic cones. They don't actually help much, but they at least remind you that they tried to tell you there was ice there before you slip for the twentieth time. This is a photograph of a reflection of one of those cones, through this patch of ice that's melted off of the roof and refrozen on the branches of a little bush below. Just something that I've noticed a few times as I've walked past and thought "that's really cool." You know, the little things.


3 comments:

  1. Wow, that's a cool photo! I never noticed the 'vagina-likeness' of an O'Keefe before, I'll have to look a little closer, I guess. :)

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  2. Wow, that pic is AWESOME!
    Jenny

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  3. Love your writing! ...and especially how you came full circle on the end of that...you need to consider writing a book...you have that certain something that makes a good read.

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