O’Keefe at the IMA

I circled back around the exibit, scribbling down my favorite paintings.

I was meandering through the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Audio tape on. Squinting at the short descriptions by each painting. Of course, several of O’Keefe’s flower paintings were on display. Jimson Weed was most prominent at the entrance of a gallery room. But the exhibit also showcased her paintings of bones, still life, and architecture, particularly the black door of an adobe that she was smitten with.

The exhibit contextualized O’Keefe’s works in New Mexico, placing her artwork alongside that of other Taos and New Mexican artists. I was introduced to many different artists that surrounded her in time and place—some more schooled in traditional styles, some more in abstract art, some inspired by artists like Cézanne.

In the introduction, before glimpsing her work proper, I was stuck by a painting by one contemporary, Alexander Hogue. The colors and composition of Studio Corner—Taos drew me in.

A Million Aspen Leaves by Joseph Henry Sharp also caught my eye—aspen leaves stuck in a vase on top of an Indian cloth. The leaves were in various stages of life…green, to orange, to yellow, to brown. Some off of the branches, laying on the table. Most still on the branches in the vase.

Throughout the exhibition, various paintings were juxtaposed, allowing the comparison of styles, colors, and formats. In one comparison, I was drawn into Sweetpea by William Dunton, a painting of sweet peas in a vase against a soft, hazy background. I love the smell of sweet peas, and while the smell was not present except in my memories, the beautiful colors were in this painting.

In another instance, Milkweed, a beautifully done close-up painting by Barbara Lantham, was contrasted to the Garden of Eden by Dorothy Morang. Strangely, through the comparison, the subject matter looked the same; the Garden of Eden looked like a different depiction of milkweed seeds, though it is not.

In one of the last rooms in the exhibit, artwork by students lined a wall—the best O’Keefe-inspired works by school children in Indiana (preschool through 12th grade). I was in awe of the first one, a pastel drawing of a flower by a fourth grader. The remaining artwork was as impressive.

I welcomed a familiar feeling that surfaced as I meandered through the exhibit, the feeling I get when I visit art museums. Something about being in the presence of created works—paintings, photographs, drawings, design—seems to call to the creative depths inside of me. I feel the creative itch, the need to express….something. My body loosens. My mind expands. I open to the outside. (I am an introvert after all.) I want to explore, to learn, to feel. That is the best way I can describe what happens to me. The residue stays with me after I leave an art museum or a showing or a creative performance, slowing ebbing away until I feed it again.

I now have a membership to the IMA. I suspect I will be back for more. I must appease that creative beast and scratch the artistic itch. Immersing myself in art is like an addiction. It feeds a need I have, but the need is never quite satisfied—it just ebbs and flows. I feel the need for full immersion—an art studio loft in NYC, a café on the Left Bank, or an adobe in New Mexico. Pull out the beret, the black clothes, the well-worn Satre. The siren of the artist beckons.

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