The exhibition brings to light a relatively unknown aspect of Georgia O’Keeffe’s art and thinking—her deep respect for the diverse and distinctive cultures of northern New Mexico. Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land features 53 O’Keeffe works including 15 rarely seen pictures of different Hopi katsina tihu, along with examples of these types of figures. Chronicling her artwork created in New Mexico, the exhibition explores O’Keeffe’s paintings of New Mexico’s Hispanic and Native American architecture, cultural objects, and her New Mexico landscapes.
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986) began spending part of the year living and working in New Mexico in 1929, a pattern she rarely altered until 1949. She then made northern New Mexico her permanent home three years after the death of her husband, Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946), the celebrated photographer and one of America’s first advocates of modern art. In addition to the astonishingly beautiful New Mexico landscapes O’Keeffe painted, she was also inspired to paint some of the area’s churches, crosses and folk art as well as Native American subjects, such as architecture and katsina tithu, commonly referred to as kachina or katsina dolls.
Katsinam, plural for katsina, primarily refers to the supernatural beings that are believed to visit Hopi villagers during half of the year. Katsinam have the power to bring rain, exercise control over the weather, help in many of the everyday activities of the villagers, punish offenders of ceremonial or social laws, and, in general, to function as messengers between the spiritual domain and mortals. The figures are used to teach children about the different Hopi katsinam. O’Keeffe was privy to viewing many cultural ceremonies and was inspired by the beautifully detailed figurines.
The DAM exhibition will showcase American Indian artworks, such as katsina tithu figurines, to provide viewers with an up-close look at the various cultural artifacts that O’Keeffe was exposed to during her time in New Mexico.
While the New Mexico landscape remained a prominent part of O’Keeffe’s life and art, very little has been known or written about her involvement with Native American and Hispanic art and culture. However, almost immediately upon her arrival in New Mexico, she responded to the area’s cultural richness. Between 1931 and 1945, for example, O'Keeffe created numerous drawings, watercolors, and paintings of katsina tithu. Because she retained and seldom exhibited most of these paintings, they remain generally unknown to the public.
Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land will be on view through April 28, 2013.