O’Keeffe exhibit brings the Southwest to life

Adjacent to Packard Music Hall lies the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, an art gallery that brings the greatest paintings into perspective with vivid colors and compelling scenes from abstract modernism to more down-to-earth realism. Now, combine this with the grandiose landscape and diverse culture of the Southwest United States during the 20th century.

Since late June, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center has had the opportunity to represent Colorado Springs as one of the only four cities in the nation to exhibit one of the most influential painters of the 20th century in the “Eloquent Objects” exhibit: Georgia O’Keeffe. Having grown up in New York City in the early 1890s, O’Keeffe originally focused on modernist and abstract oil paintings of the city’s skyline after having been inspired by photography in aims of depicting the New York’s beauty through intense colors and large scaling. However, after spending many of her summers in New Mexico, O’Keeffe made the move to her permanent and isolated home in Ghost Ranch to display the allure of the American Southwest and its never-ending vastness. There, she frequently painted still life oil canvases of the environment, including bones in pieces like “Rib and Jawbone” and “Deer Horns.” To her, bones represent life and mortality and, quoted by O’Keeffe herself, “are strangely more living than the animals walking around.” She also indulged in painting the New Mexican natural landscape itself in pieces like “Gerald’s Tree II,” “Dead Cedar Stump,” and “Horseshoe With Feather.” These seemingly barren, yet influential, elements provided O’Keeffe with endless inspiration; “Gerald’s Tree II” was connected to her experience of watching her friend dance around this tree. By using abstract imagery, exaggerated scaling, and vibrant colors, O’Keeffe revolutionizes modernism to reflect her intense real-life experiences of the still life that she paints, especially in her flower paintings.

O’Keeffe was not the only artist to be so artistically influenced by the Southwestern landscape. The Fine Arts Center also showcases other pieces and artists in the “Eloquent Objects” exhibit like “Interior – Attic Studio” by Howard B. Schleeter and “Kitchen Window” by Jozef Bakos, which primarily use realistic colors and textures to delve into the simple daily life of the Southwest’s inhabitants through the images of their homes.

Often, these paintings also represent the huge significance of Christianity in people’s lives such as in “Still Life – New Mexican Crucifix” by Eliseo Rodriguez. As with O’Keeffe, other artists really sought to depict the native and introduced flowers in their realistic paintings like “Petunias” Victor Higgins. Others really strove to recognize Native American culture in their art through the presence of native pottery and blankets like in “Zinnias” by Carl von Hassler.

The art sought to tell the world about the diversity of the Hispanic and Native American cultures through their incredible art by the enlightening the place’s historical narrative.

The exhibit also features multiple pieces of indigenous pottery, robes, and tribal sculptures.

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center is located at 30 W. Dale St. and O’Keeffe’s exhibit will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Sept. 20. For Colorado College students, tickets can be purchased at the venue or online at http://www.csfineartscenter.org/ for $15.

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