“Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style” finishes off its exhibition tour at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA. The show, on view through April 1, juxtaposes O’Keeffe’s clothing with her paintings and photographs taken throughout her lifetime. The artist was a talented seamstress and made many of her own garments. Though minimalistic in style, they reveal the attention to detail and texture that only an artist could have.
At the press opening for the show, the curators drew some interesting parallels between O’Keeffe and the contemporary obsession with “branding” yourself. As one of the first celebrity artists, she had the privilege, and the burden, of controlling how the world saw her. This is especially evident in the extensive collection of photographs exhibited. O’Keeffe was married to Alfred Stieglitz and he photographed her what seems like incessantly. He brought her face to the public before she was famous in her own right, which begs the question, who was controlling her image?
“Art, Image, Style” is an intimate look at a dynamic woman. It can’t be denied that O’Keeffe was groundbreaking and feminist in her independence and control over her own life. Though I do keep in mind that she was able to swim countercurrent because of her status as a white woman from a family well off enough to enroll her in art lessons and later, college.
The exhibition is separated into two sections, New York and the Southwest. I like this distinction because it shows two sides to O’Keeffe’s personality, the famous artist who could socialize with the best of New York intelligentsia, and the pensive woman who sought the remoteness and ruggedness of the Southwest. It’s almost as though her years in New York introduced her to so many people that she never wanted to see one again. Can’t blame her.
For proper absorption, “Art, Image, Style” requires more than one visit. There’s so much to see and so many details to analyze, each visit only serves to stoke the hunger for another. The curators say there’s a story to be told about O’Keeffe and Instagram, but I think social media would have been too loud for the artist that sought the whisper of the wind on the desert.
Buy tickets and check the PEM hours on their website.