The Museum of Fine Arts Houston and works from Georgia O’Keeffe

Installation view of “Georgia O’Keeffe, Photographer” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Georgia O’Keeffe spent 30 years with legendary American photographer Alfred Stiglitz. Georgia O’Keeffe   worked with him, posed for him, and even selected prints for him.“Stiglitz said I knew less about photography than anyone he knew,” Georgia O’Keeffe told a journalist in 1962. But still, he would have trusted her judgment of the imprint.

No doubt she would have laughed to see that she was recently hailed as photographer Georgia O’Keeffe, as it is called in the exhibition now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH).

O’Keeffe took some random photographs, and on a Dole-sponsored trip to Hawaii in 1939, she took some photographs that she called “snapshots.” It wasn’t until the late 1950s that O’Keefe got his own camera. First the 35mm Leica and then the Polaroid.

The snaps were not something that O’Keeffe planned to show. She wrote to a friend of hers, the journalist Edith Evans Asbury, that she conceived them as a way to record.

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston light exhibit is captivatingly designed, with about 100 photographs of O’Keeffe displayed alongside those of O’Keefe, juxtaposing her photographs with related paintings, and displaying archival objects. This is primarily the artist’s cameras and her detection equipment.

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium),” 1964–68, Black-and-white Polaroid. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe. © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston light exhibit was a revelation to the followers of the 20th-century master, as it is the first exhibit dedicated to her work as a photographer. For six years, the Museum of Fine arts Houston curator of photography, Lisa Wolpe, reviewed hundreds of photographs held in the unexplored archives of the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

The result is a more complete representation of O’Keefe’s artistic profile at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston light exhibit, showing her work in a different medium, more often associated with her husband Alfred Stieglitz.

“The Houston photography  Museum assumed they were taken by O’Keeffe,” Volpe says. “So, I was fascinated. I associated her with photography, but always as a model for portraits. But it was an opportunity to prove that she had her own photographic practice. And what a photographic vision she had.”

Approximately 90 works appeared in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum of Fine Arts Houston light exhibit, most of which are photographs from the archives. At the Museum of Fine Arts Houston light exhibit, O’Keeffe enthusiasts saw parallels between the photographs and her famous paintings, especially in the artist’s interest in seasonal changes and her use of light and shadow.


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