Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum Collection,
University of MN, Minneapolis, © 2016
Georgia O'Keeffe Museum/ DACS, London
By Lindsey Taylor
WSJ, Oct. 7, 2016
I was in London recently and saw the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit at the Tate Modern. The show—which gathers over 100 paintings, drawings and notebooks, and runs through Oct. 30—blew apart my fairly narrow preconceptions of the American artist’s work. Of course, I know the canvases O’Keeffe (1887-1986) produced in New Mexico—the sun-bleached animal skulls, the arid landscapes—but I’d never seen the lusher work she undertook during a series of summers (which sometimes extended into November) she spent on Lake George in the Adirondacks, and that’s what triggered this month’s arrangement.
The color palette of “Oak Leaves, Pink and Gray” (1929) got me thinking about fall bouquets, which so often hit obvious, yawny color notes, from oranges to russets. But look closer at the changing leaves, as O’Keeffe persuades us to, and you will see a whole range of pinks and greens and grays—a refreshing scheme to home in on if you want to usher nature indoors this time of year.
To interpret this intimate painting, I started with a murkily glazed vessel called Stem Vase from New York ceramist Marité Acosta, with its individual cylinders for flowers and foliage. My first stop for living things was, as always, my own garden, from which I cut pinky blooms and rhythmic forms that reflected the work. I conscripted a large Café au Lait dahlia as the arrangement’s showstopper. Astilbe, whose feathery plumes shift to deeper shades of rose and brown as it dies off, helped layer other tones into the bundle. Foliage from my Cotinus ‘Purple Smoke’ mimicked the gestural shapes of the oak leaves. Finally, I was excited to find a branch of fruiting blackberry to give the bouquet the sensual quality O’Keeffe conjured with such apparent ease whenever she interpreted the world around her.