pretty genitalia


Poor Georgia O’Keeffe. Death didn’t soften the opinions of the art world toward her paintings. Twenty-three years later, many continue to dismiss her as a prissy painter of pretty pictures—or, I should say, pretty genitalia. Even when hailed for being “the most famous and highly paid woman artist in America,” she gets saddled with a qualifier. No other figure in American art history went from heights to has-been so quickly. See if these comments, some of them by women, don’t make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Critics wrote of the “great painful and ecstatic climaxes” in the art of “this girl,” of how she felt “through the womb,” and gave us a “sense of woman’s flesh in martyrdom.” Her paintings were said to be a “revelation of the very essence of woman as Life Giver,” expressing “dense, quivering, endless life,” and “the world as it is known to woman.” We read about her “outpouring of sexual juices,” “loamy hungers of the flesh,” and her art as “one long, loud blast of sex, sex in youth, sex in adolescence, sex in maturity … sex bulging, sex tumescent, sex deflated.” And those were the admirers! Critic Clement Greenberg, a nonfan, was appalled when MoMA honored O’Keeffe with a retrospective in 1946—one of its first solo shows for a woman; her work was “little more than tinted photography.” Threatened male artists (sex was their territory!) Edward Hopper and John Sloan were “furious” that she’d been elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1949 and “tried to intervene.”

more from Jerry Saltz at New York Magazine here.