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Georgia O’Keeffe in West Texas

Published in Texan

Georgia O’Keeffe: Finding Inspiration in the Vastness of West Texas

Georgia O’Keeffe, the iconic American artist renowned for her magnified flower paintings, also had a deep connection to the landscapes of West Texas. While teaching at West Texas State Normal College (now West Texas A&M University) between 1916 and 1918, O’Keeffe encountered a land unlike anything she’d seen before. The vastness of the plains, the dramatic skies, and the unique geological formations sparked a new direction in her art.

O’Keeffe’s West Texas paintings aren’t literal depictions of the landscape. Instead, they capture the essence of the place – its stark beauty, its powerful light, and its sense of solitude. She created watercolors like “Light Coming on the Plains” (1917), with its bold washes of color capturing the sunrise over the plains. In other works, she focused on specific elements like canyons and mesas, often using a close-up perspective that accentuated their grandeur and texture.

One of the most significant aspects of O’Keeffe’s West Texas paintings is the way they play with scale. By zooming in on specific details, she transformed ordinary elements like animal bones (“Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue,” 1916) or eroded hills (“The Grey,” 1917) into powerful abstract forms. This approach foreshadowed the magnified flowers that would become her signature later in her career.

Georgia O’Keeffe Cow’s Skull: Red, White and Blue on canvas at amazon

O’Keeffe’s time in West Texas was a pivotal moment in her artistic journey. The stark beauty of the landscape challenged her traditional notions of representation and pushed her towards abstraction. Even after leaving Texas, the influence of this period continued to resonate in her work, reminding us of the profound impact a place can have on an artist’s vision.

Further Exploration:

  • Georgia O’Keeffe at Amazon
  • The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
  • West Texas A&M University’s O’Keeffe Watercolors collection