What Georgia O’Keeffe Has Taught Me

Georgia O'Keeffe

In turbulent times, art is a compass. We turn to art for a sense of purpose, connection and meaning. Art reflects our inner and outer experiences — it’s an expression of what it means to be a human. This past year, I’ve turned to art more than ever before, and while art feels reparative, what truly inspires me is the artists themselves. I’m drawn to their worlds. I want to know what makes them feel alive, what drives them to create.

One artist I keep coming back to is Georgia O’Keeffe. While I in no way will ever possess the talent to paint anything of substantial beauty, I do feel a sense of connection to her love of life and her need to explore its every detail. In the past, my knowledge of O’Keeffe was limited: I loved her beautiful painted flowers, her use of watercolors and her mystifying landscapes, but I didn’t know much about O’Keeffe, the woman. After reading about her, I discovered the many multitudes and contradictions that O’Keeffe embodied. While she never overtly identified as a feminist, her actions clearly reflected a woman coming into her own.

In the Georgia O’Keeffe documentary, “By Myself,” O’Keeffe explains that when she first started making art, it was always for other people; to impress someone. It wasn’t until she started making art for herself that the world took notice. This strange contradiction is often the case for famous artists. However, it’s never a simple transition. Personally, I’ve never felt more connected to who I am and what truly interests me, but I’ve not found a way to get my new work noticed on a larger scale. It feels more like a whisper. Like there are only a few waves left before I’m swept under by the current, and no one will even notice.

These feelings of unease have left me ravenous for literature, music and artwork. I’m consuming art voraciously, yet I never feel satiated. I’m searching for something unknown. But I trust the process. I think of O’Keeffe and how over time, she became more confident. She grew less concerned with public opinions; she even detached from her great love Alfred Stieglitz. When she moved to New Mexico, she experienced the solitude and awe-inspiring nature she craved. Her environment endlessly inspired her, and she was able to create work that truly spoke to her.

I can’t paint, I don’t have New Mexico and I certainly can’t run away from my family obligations to spend hours alone in nature — but I can practice O’Keeffe’s stellar observational skills. I can examine the delicate petals of a rose, listen to the sound of raindrops on my window, lay under a blanket of stars. I can continue to read everything I get my hands on, push myself to learn new things and stay curious. Through these small acts of attention, I may find that “something” I’m looking for — something that leads to my next chapter of this wonderful, wild life.

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Author: Taylor Sterling

Taylor Sterling is the founder and creative director of Glitter Guide. When she's not working on all things GG, she can be found reading and sometimes art directing photoshoots for @LolaJayne. She enjoys spending time with her family and eating french fries (not necessarily at the same time, although that's definitely the best combination). Follow her at @TaylorSterling