Georgia O’Keeffe, her artistry in and out of the kitchen |

Georgia O’Keeffe, her artistry in and out of the kitchen

Wren Wertin
Special to the Daily"Jimson Weed" 1932

Aware of her draw and interest, the Vail Symposium is offering an evening of discussion, perusal and food centering on the artist at the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek Sunday. Hors d’oeuvres will be served at 5:30, a slide lecture and discussion at 6, and dinner will commence at 7 p.m. Reservations for the dinner need to be made by this afternoon.

For the event, Bob Nauman, professor of art history at the University of Denver, will offer a one-hour slide presentation and open discussion before dinner.

While working on his Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque during the ’90s, the landscape stung him with its peerless shapes and light.

“I remember sitting in my backyard in September, the month after I arrived, and looking up and being absolutely transfixed by the light,” he said. “I had never experienced the clarity and brilliance of that Southwest, low humidity illumination. I suddenly understood why so many artists and photographers had been attracted to New Mexico during the 20th century, and I studied many of the artists for whom New Mexico was home.”

O’Keeffe is one of them; she is undeniably linked with the American Southwest. Her canvasses reflect the flora and fauna of that land.

“Her work, I think, gains its power in that it finds a spiritual resonance in the landscape of the Southwest and in the quiet solitude that defined her relationship to it,” he said. “There is a sense of the sublime to her work that is profound.”

Part of Sunday’s discussion will deal with the issues of the West. As Nauman points out, most of the writing on art and architecture comes out of East Coast publications and reflects the “East-o-centric” notion that nothing happens out here except roadkill.

Artist Susan Mackin Dolan describes O’Keeffe as a bit of a hero. Though O’Keeffe denied it again and again in her writing, Dolan still thinks of the painter as the original feminist artist. According to Dolan, she hit to the heart of all the young women in art school. What were they reacting to?

“The abstract color and feminine subject matter – she brought it to such a new level,” said Dolan. “You’re not supposed to paint flowers, that’s a no no, cliche and banal. What she did with that was superb and intelligent.”

“O’Keeffe is of interest in addition because she was a “she,'” said Nauman. “The manner in which she was “folded’ into mainstream art history discussions was by association with the male Abstract Expressionists of New York.”

As for Nauman, his favorite works by the artist are from the 1920s and 1930s, “when it was fresh and not quite so self-consciously “O’Keeffe.'” He wants the evening to be fresh, too, and very informal.

“Having spoken to this group before, I think they’re extremely interesting, well-traveled and culturally savvy,” he said. “I’ll share information that I have on O’Keeffe, try to answer any questions or provide any insights I might have and try not to choke anyone on their leg of lamb with pretentious art historical posturing.”

It would be difficult to have any “historical posturing” knowing that a knock-down-drag-out dinner buffet awaits the captive audience. The Vail Symposium has taken a wide selection of dishes out of “A Painter’s Kitchen: recipes from the the kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe.” Included are foods distinctively Southwestern (posole and green chile chicken enchiladas), Southern (fried green tomatoes), Western (roast leg of lamb) and items unique to O’Keeffe (dandelion mashed potatoes).

The Vail Symposium must give a final people count to the Pines Lodge today. Cost for the evening, including lecture, dinner, tax and gratuity, is $55 for Vail Symposium Supporters and $70 for everyone else. For more information or to make a reservation call them at 476-0954.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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