Thursday, February 7, Friends of Southwest Art hosted Dr. Amy Von Lintel of WTAMU who spoke on “Georgia O’Keeffe and WWI” in the Hazlewood Room at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum.
The central tenet of Dr. Von Lintel’s remarks is that the words and works of Georgia O’Keeffe during her time at Canyon communicate war-related messages.
O’Keeffe called her passion for painting “being on a warpath,” and while on that warpath in Canyon she produced more that one-hundred works.
Professor Von Lintel maintains that O’Keeffe was influenced by European artists like Kandinsky and the Futurists, showing that “she was in dialogue with an international set of aesthetics.”
Her views to the war were well-known, urging all young men to at least finish their term before enlisting. Her opposition to X-mas cards at the drugstore carrying the Yuletide message of “Wipe Germany off the Map!” spread with the prairie fire speed of small town gossip.
Her alienation from the Canyon populace was amplified by her refusal to conform to other social norms, such as going to church, her involvement with the teenage student Ted Reid, and her non-conformity in dress.
Dr. Von Lintel showed a number of O’Keeffe’s works to illustrate her points. Series I From the Plains 1919 revisits her wartime sensations inspired by the sorrowful lowing of cattle and the sharp serration of lightning, symbolic of men shipped off to the meat-market of sharp-edged war.
“Nude Series XII” blurs the lines of the human form, perhaps humanity in general, in pinks and red, while the faces of her nudes resemble gas masks.
“The Flag, 1918”, has lost its identity, partially obscured by grayish-blue smoke, the pall of the battlefield. At the base of the flag is an amorphous analog to her nudes.
In both Europe and the US, artists were horrified by the wanton, senseless and politically pointless destruction wrought by the Great War.
In Europe this feeling informed German Expressionism and inspired Dadism.
For Georgia O’Keeffe, WWI confirmed her iconoclastic identity. It also occasioned her contracting the Spanish Flu, the recovery from which took her permanently from the Panhandle.
Dr. Von Lintel does a great service by educating the public to the Panhandle presence of the world’s most famous female artist a century ago.
The great shame to both Amarillo and Canyon is that neither locale has owned that identity. That possession has defaulted to Santa Fe, which reaps both the recognition and the tourist dollars.
But our thanks to Amy for communicating this message related to the great cultural heritage attached to this region. That’s why we say, “Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!!!!