Ben Luke at The Evening Standard:
The view of O’Keeffe mainly as a purveyor of floral erotica has a complex history. Psychoanalytical readings were first promoted by Stieglitz’s writings on O’Keeffe but also on women’s art in general. He wrote that: “The Woman sees the World through her Womb. That is her deepest feeling. Mind comes second.” O’Keeffe’s response to this Freudian take was spirited. She rejected the idea that she was a “strange unearthly creature floating in the air” and said: “I like beef steak — and I like it rare at that.”
She also rejected readings from another viewpoint entirely, generations later, when she was adopted by feminist artists such as Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. They saw her work as a crucial influence in representing the female body from a woman’s perspective rather than through the male gaze. O’Keeffe was dismissive: any sexual or gendered symbolism was in the eye of the beholder.
But the sexual readings aren’t entirely located in the imagery; O’Keeffe’s painted language is a big factor in prompting them. I was struck throughout the show by the way she describes form in a bodily way. Progressing gradually from light to dark, she models shapes so that they evoke the fall of light and shade on a limb as it meets a torso or, as Chicago and Schapiro propose in their reading of Grey Lines with Black, Blue and Yellow (c1923), the labia and the vagina.