Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful for Inspiration

Today, I'm thankful that I get to see art and learn more about the artist's inspirations.

Yesterday, my mom and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts to see the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit, Circling Around Abstraction. While I know O'Keefe's work only marginally, I have always associated her with her quasi-representational flower portraits and desert landscapes. But what I learned yesterday is that she was committed to abstract art throughout her career.

Several things struck me as I took notes in my journal. First, it was interesting to me that she moved from more representational work, like these fruit portraits here, to ever more abstract images, like these paintings from the end of her career. If I happened on to any of these pictures at another museum, I don't know if I would have recognized them as O'Keefe. It seemed that she found a happy medium between the overly representational and the overly abstract in her landscapes and flowers.

Second, I never really understood abstract art. I took no art classes in college and so I always feel stymied when looking at an abstract piece. But the exhibit provides an excellent O'Keefe quote that explains her aesthetic:

"Nothing is less real than realism. Details are confusing. It is only by selection, elimination, and emphasis that we get to the real meaning of things."

At first, I rebelled against her statement, because in my writing, I focus on details in my poetry. But I don't include all details -- I emphasize and eliminate in order to distort and/or represent meaning.

Lastly, I was intrigued by her pelvis images, where the bones are used as a frame in which to view the sky. Somewhere on the explanatory passages, they used the phrase "bone as lens." As in, O'Keefe used the bone as a lens through which to see the world. That has resonated and stayed with me, ever since I saw it. It's an interesting movement from interior back out to exterior, and I wonder how that aesthetic informed her work. I also thought it was an interesting mini-trigger for a poem.


poet with a day job said...

I was inspired by her comment about abstraction - and I love the way you've explained how that idea translates to poetry. The purpose of abstraction is not to distort meaning, but to bring clarity to meaning by distorting fact. Isn't that a trip?

L and I went to the O'Keeffe museum while in Santa Fe recently: this was the exhibit on the walls there, as well. Beautiful.

Paul said...

I have always like O'Keefe's work !