WANDACORN: Flower Abstraction by O’Keeffe was painted in the early 1920s when she was living in New York.
NARRATOR: Wanda Corn is a historian of American Art.
WANDACORN: We’re looking deep into a flower. So deep that it’s very hard to find forms that you can identify as a stamen, for instance, or a petal.
She had a wonderful phrase later on. She would talk about making something that was far away nearby. And I always thought that that phrase, the far away nearby, even works for these early paintings, where something small like a flower becomes large and embracing in an abstraction that’s 48 inches high.
When O’Keeffe came to New York to be with Alfred Stieglitz, she entered into the circle around him which was filled with photographers such as Paul Strand and Stieglitz himself. And she was very much taken with what the photographers were doing at that point, experimenting with close ups, experimenting with different more abstract ways of framing their subjects.I think it’s fair to say that she borrowed some of the camera thinking from her colleagues at that point. So that she gave herself permission to do what the photographers were doing, which is to move uncannily close to something like the flower in this painting and cutting out, if you will, the contours of the flower so that we move right inside it.