Educator Lauren Ridloff discusses a work by Georgia O'Keeffe in the exhibition Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960.
Georgia O'Keeffe, Music, Pink and Blue No. 2, 1918. Oil on canvas, 35 x 29 15/16 in. (88.9 x 76 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Emily Fisher Landau in honor of Tom Armstrong 91.90. © The Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
For many vanguard artists in the early twentieth century, music offered a model for expressing nonverbal emotional states and sensations. In Music—Pink and Blue II, the swelling, undulating forms imply a connection between the visual and the aural, while also suggesting the rhythms and harmonies that O’Keeffe perceived in nature. When these paintings were seen for the first time, very often critics would see in them female forms. O’Keeffe herself felt as if that was more a comment on the critic than what she intended. She often would say it’s about natural forms, but it’s not to be tied to exclusively the female body. And she would have you rather see in a work like this a kind of slipperiness of form where you can’t tie it to any one thing be it a flower or be it a female body or be it a landscape. But that it has poetic allusions to all of those.
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