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Living Legends of The Arts

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Flowers of Fire – the art of Georgia O’Keeffe

One of a limited edition of twenty five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper (Print Only) £150

Georgia O’Keeffe (November 15, 1887 – March 6, 1986) was an American modernist painter and draftswoman whose career spanned seven decades. Called the “Mother of American modernism”, she gained international recognition for her meticulous paintings of natural forms, particularly flowers and desert-inspired landscapes, which were often drawn from and related to places and environments in which she lived (𝑊𝑖𝑘𝑖𝑝𝑒𝑑𝑖𝑎).

Many interpretations have been imposed upon O’Keeffe’s art ~ in particular her large-scale depictions of flowers such as Red Canna and Black Iris ~ created in the mid-nineteen-twenties. The critics’ discussions of O’Keeffe’s works were often influenced by the popularized theories of Sigmund Freud, which by the 1920s were widespread in America. In a cultural atmosphere seduced and gradually transformed by his theories, art and its critical reception – like many other aspects of modern life – were invariably, and indelibly colored by Freudian concepts.

In 1922, journalist Paul Rosenfeld commented “[the] Essence of very womanhood permeates her pictures”, citing her use of color and shapes as metaphors for the female body.” At that time, of course, we are talking about a woman artist, accomplished and independent, whose work was analysed almost exclusively by a bunch of white, wealthy, cultured and elitist men. These Art Critics applied a very gendered and eroticised reading of her creations.

O’Keeffe, however, stood her ground against sexual interpretations of her work, and for fifty years maintained that there was no connection between vulvas and her artwork. Firing back against some of the criticism, O’Keeffe stated, “When people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they’re really projecting their own phantasies and desires onto them. Femaleness is irrelevant (and) it has nothing to do with art making or accomplishment.”

Having researched O’Keeffe’s work, I see her primarily as an artist who was inspired by colour and form, together with a genuine desire to celebrate the beauty of a woman’s body. However, to single out the female gender as ‘otherness’ (which her male critics most certainly did) creates division, inequality and potential disempowerment. Rather than the masculine definition of woman as ‘the other’, maybe the myth of woman will be phased out one day. “The more women assert themselves and are accepted as human beings”, wrote Simone de Beauvoir, “the more the marvellous quality of Other dies in them.”

A String of Pearls

One of a limited edition of twenty five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper (Print Only) £150

As you may have gathered, Margaret Atwood is one of my absolute favourite authors. Whilst I’m currently creating a series based on, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, I thought I’d take a detour and create a piece dedicated to her.

My inspiration came from reading one of Atwood’s poems, ‘Dearly’ ~ taken from her latest collection with the same name.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here

in this forgotten photo album

I came across recently.”

In this collection she writes about caring for her husband who had dementia, the feelings it generated within her and the grief that she experienced.

When I’m creating art I tend to research as I go and I was struck by another poem of hers called, ‘The Woman who could not live with her faulty Heart.’ As someone who has experienced ectopic beats for many years, I connected deeply with this poem and decided to merge my feelings and images that were generated by both poems.

“It is a constant pestering

in my ears, a caught moth, limping drum, a child’s fist beating itself against the bedsprings:

I want, I don’t want.

How can one live with such a heart?”

I never knew it was gonna be this way’

One of a limited edition of twenty five prints, printed on Hahnemühle Rag Paper, approx. 40cm x 40cm (Print Only) £150

This is the third piece in my series of six older celebrities. It’s my way of paying homage to Bob Dylan, the man who more or less shaped me and carried me along during my mid-teens:

‘𝐈 𝐧𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝐤𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐧𝐚 𝐛𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐬 𝐰𝐚𝐲’ is a line taken from, ‘Last thoughts on Woody Guthrie’, a poem by Dylan written in honour of his idol Woody Guthrie, who at the time was dying from Huntington’s disease. The poem was recited live during his April 12, 1963 performance at New York City’s Town Hall and was officially released in 1991 on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1-3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961-1991.

In the background of my image stands Woody Guthrie in a very old photograph taken at McSorley’s Old Ale House, New York, in 1943, which I layered into Procreate as my starting point. The digital painting of Dylan himself took me four weeks, working from a photograph of him on my laptop.

If you’re unable to find a specific piece of art here or would like to view my whole gallery, visit either my Instagram or Facebook page, identify the title of the image you like and then contact me with the title for more information. In addition to the pieces listed above, all my art is available in three forms: a print only, a mounted print, a mounted and framed print.

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