georgia o’keeffe & her times

by donald henry dusinberre
Once again there’s another really great new exhibit from the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. On display this month is Georgia O’Keeffe & Her Times: American Modernism from the Lane Collection of Fine Arts in Boston. The selections are from what many believe to be one of the finest collections of 20th century American Modernist art yet assembled.
At first, I was a smidge confused that there are actually just a few O’Keeffe paintings on display. I figured that since her name was the only one in the title, her work would be the main event. But her work is just a part of the exhibit; O’Keeffe is simply the star of the larger show.
  From the very beginning of her career, Georgia O’Keeffe was the darling of Modernism. Spurred on by photographer Alfred Stieglitz (who would become her husband), she quickly earned the respect of her peers and the admiration of art lovers everywhere. She was the face of American Modernism for much of the 20th century.
  Along with O’Keeffe’s 12 paintings are works by other significant Modernist contemporaries, including Arthur Garfield Dove, Stuart Davis, Max Weber and Marsden Hartley. So even if you don’t like the Southwestern subject matter typical of O’Keeffe’s paintings, there are plenty of other paintings you might like.
  If you’re wondering why you’d prefer one artist’s work over another even though they’re all Modern, don’t worry. There’s no unified “look” to Modernism because it’s a really broad definition essentially based upon what a Modern artwork should not be. In other words, the point was to create something that was new, either by appearance or concept.
  It may be difficult to see what’s so great about some of these works of art until you understand that they are unfettered examples of a new attitude in art. Think about it like this: Elvis’ music seems pretty tame now, but it shook up the music world and changed it forever. Even though rock n’ roll music has since become harder and edgier, Elvis was one of the first. Furthermore, his songs have never been discarded nor are they diminished by the efforts that followed. So it is with O’Keeffe and her other Modern contemporaries.
  To help you along with that understanding, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens provides many opportunities to learn more. Every Tuesday night is family night at the Cummer (free admission), and in addition to their special exhibitions and permanent collection, they always host a number of accompanying events for each new exhibition. 
  The month of March brings Especially for Seniors Talks & Tea on Wednesday, March 18 or Thursday, March 19 at 1:30 pm. Call to sign up at 355-0630.  In conjunction with Players by the Sea, the Cummer presents a one-woman play entitled O’Keeffe! by Lucinda McDermott. The show takes place on Tuesday, March 24 from 7 pm – 9 pm. 
  We don’t get a chance to see this caliber of historical artwork very often, so take advantage of this opportunity while you can. Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Times will run through April 12. For more information on this exhibition, visit the Cummer Museum website at