“I have picked flowers where I found them
Have picked up sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood where there were sea shells and rocks and pieces of wood that I liked
When I found the beautiful white bones on the desert I picked them up and took them home too
I have used these things to say what is to me the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it”
She was born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin in 1887. The second of seven children, she grew up on her family’s farm. As a child, O’Keeffe was enrolled in private art lessons, and by the time she graduated from high school, she was determined to become an artist.
After attending the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York, O’Keeffe studied at Teachers College, Columbia University to become an art teacher. In 1916, a friend took a group of her drawings to photographer Alfred Stieglitz who showed them in an exhibition at his gallery in New York. Encouraged by Stieglitz’s interest in her work, O’Keeffe continued to make charcoal drawings and began to use watercolor paint.
In 1929, O’Keeffe traveled to New Mexico for the first time; afterward she returned often to visit and eventually bought a house there. After Stieglitz died in 1946, O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico where she continued to make art until her death in 1986.
“I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say in any other way—things that I had no words for.”