The Woman Unafraid : Georgia O'Keeffe's Explorations of Female Sexuality
When Georgia Totto O'Keeffe (1887-1986) began to garner attention in the world of art, thanks in large part to the marketing skills of New York gallery owner, publisher, and artist in his own right, Alfred Stieglitz, people immediately began to dissect and analyze her work through a gendered lens. Stieglitz and O'Keeffe were soon married, and he remained her biggest supporter and advocate in the art scene. His manipulative marketing skills, however, may have made O'Keeffe famous but were a main factor in forcing her to remain a "woman artist" rather than simply an "artist" in the eyes of her critics as well as her contemporaries. Her early abstractions and flower paintings were received, both critically and by the general public, as sexual. This was due in great part to Stieglitz's influence upon her work as well as her public image. The author reviews three periods in O'Keeffe's career, and highlight the correlation between a major shift in her work and her disconnection from Alfred Stieglitz. The first two periods in her career, her early abstractions and her flower paintings, demonstrate an inherent sexuality that Stieglitz influenced and seized upon to market O'Keeffe's work. The third period began in around 1929, at the same time Stieglitz began his affair with Dorothy Norman, and ends in the 1970s when she switched from oil to using pencil, watercolor, and clay. This third period, when she was released from "the Stieglitz effect," The author contends, illustrates a new approach to her work and a distancing from the previous sexuality that the art of the first two periods .embodied. O'Keeffe began traveling and working in New Mexico in 1929 when Stiegliz's affair began, and moved there permanently three years after his death, in 1949. Although his affair did not cause a divorce, and they claimed that their relationship was repaired, she argues that Stieglitz lost much of his control and influence over O'Keeffe's work when his emotions and physical attentions were diverted to Dorothy Norman, a fact made evident when analyzing O'Keeffe's work during that time.