Georgia O’Keeffe, Clyfford Still & Single-Artists Museums
By Bailey Harberg, Collections Manager
Georgia O’Keeffe seems to be everywhere since the February opening of the Denver Art Museum’s exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land. The exhibition highlights O’Keeffe’s appreciation for New Mexican landscape and cultures. Walking through the exhibition, I couldn’t help but make connections between O’Keefe and Clyfford Still.
Still and O’Keeffe’s artworks have a distinctly American aesthetic largely inspired by the West and the native cultures in the region, and each of the artists have played a huge role in shaping the way in which we view the landscape of twentieth-century American art today. Personally, I’ve found that the western artistic language expressed by both Still and O’Keeffe’s work has become a massive force when it comes to defining my own visual appetite, which may or may not have something to do with my growing up in Albuquerque, NM (proud graduate of Georgia O’Keeffe Elementary School…go Rams!). This is probably one of the reasons I feel so innately drawn to Still’s work.
Both Still and O’Keeffe are also each the subject of art museums located in the West founded on the unique principle of disseminating a single artist’s life and vision. It’s exciting to think about O’Keeffe and Still as American contemporaries (O’Keeffe died just 5 years after Still) who were responding to similar socio-political climates artistically through themes based in the spiritual and abstract, but it is also worth exploring how these two artists relate to larger twentieth-century ideas that led to the notion of the “single-artist museum” in the first place.
In early April, the Clyfford Still Museum collections team will be traveling to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and Ghost Ranch property to discuss parallels between the two single-artist museums with their staff. We hope to learn how the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum collection and archives fit together, how their staff makes connections between the two areas, and ways in which they have maximized intellectual access for researchers via their Research Center in order to advance twentieth-century American art historical/cultural scholarship.
Hopefully, we will hash out what it takes to effectively care for and promote the collections of such iconic artists and experience more of the American Western landscape that is so inherently tied to O’Keeffe and Still’s work.
Clyfford Still, PP-711, 1936. Pastel on paper, 8 ⅝ x 12 in. © Clyfford Still Estate
Clyfford Still, PP-493, 1936. Pastel on paper, 8 ½ x 11in. © Clyfford Still Estate