Georgia O Keeffe- Black Place III 1944
I haven’t been a huge fan of Georgia O’Keeffe, but I found her exhibition at the Tate Modern surprisingly inspiring for my projects- “the death of Hope” and “My father’s land”
I have been struggling with trying to find a way of representing my father’s experience of the war and being a refugee, through photography. Not being a landscape photographer, it’s quite hard, as I want to bring some emotional response and connection to the environment. I was interested to find that Georgia O’Keeffe had the same wish from her landscapes and succeeded brilliantly with her abstracts. I stood looking into the Black Place III painting (shown above) and being completely mesmerised by it. It was painted near the end of the second world war. This project about my father is all about the dark and light, dark being associated with shadow, unconscious, secrets, scary places and evil. (taken from Freud and Jung) One can also associate darkness with being on the wrong side in the war, or war itself. The light, being openness, good, happiness. Interestingly, dark can also mean feminine and light- masculine, according to Chinese philosophies.
This may impact on my work, previously I have decided that the photos I take should be at night, dusk or underwater, (another symbol of the unconscious, hidden dangers and secrets). This painting suggests to me that I might have to redo the journey over the mountains at night, even though the refugees did most of it during the daytime. My father’s second escape was at night through the woods, plus hiding in the cornfield all day but in shadow. It would be good to play with overexposure too. As the situation is not black and white, I could also go for greys, but I think it’s too literal and there has to be some colour in the photos too. It’s great to go to an exhibition of a great artist and find inspiration for a completely different medium, although I suspect her black and white place paintings are about the same subject as my father’s project – WAR
Georgia O’Keeffe- pelvis series 1945
Moving on to her paintings of bones in the desert, I was arrested by the discovery that she eventually concentrated only on pelvic bones in 1945. Stating it was because she liked looking at the landscape through the holes. I can imagine that as a sensual artist, she would have a reaction like that, but find it hard to imagine there is no subconscious or even conscious meaning behind the use of pelvic bones in the desert. The pelvis is associated with childbirth. Pelvic bones in the desert have to be about death or the absence of childbirth. Naturally, being childless, I am acutely aware of such references, so could use this as inspiration for my other projects about childlessness. Interestingly, she has made the aperture look like an egg, another symbol of birth. The egg is actually a hole, there is no egg. Researching further, I have found that Georgia O’Keeffe was “childless through marriage” (She wanted children but agreed with her husband that it was not compatible with being an artist)
In relation to my project about my father, the pelvic bones would be about the many young men and women who were executed in their prime, after the war, and will never have children. Children also being a symbol of their potential.
I don’t think it a coincidence that Georgia O’Keeffe painted these pelvic bone pictures at the end of the war and was also childless.