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Quotes from Georgia O'Keeffe (1887–1986)
Quotes from Georgia O'Keeffe, the American artist best known for her close-up flower portraits and paintings of New Mexico landscapes.
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"It was in the fall of 1915 that I first had the idea that what I had been taught was of little value to me except for the use of my materials as a language."

"There was no one around to look at what I was doing – no one interested – no one to say anything about it one way or another. I was alone and singularly free, working into my own unknown – no one to satisfy except myself." (1915, when O'Keeffe was making only charcoal drawings)

"A flower is relatively small. Everyone has many associations with a flower – the idea of flowers ... So I said to myself – I'll paint what I see – what the flower is to me but I'll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it – I will make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers."

"You [hang] all your own associations with flowers on my flower ... as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower – and I don't." (O'Keeffe rejecting the notion that her flower paintings were sexual metaphors.)

"Now and then when I get an idea for a picture, I think, how ordinary. Why paint that old rock? Why not go for a walk instead? But then I realise that to someone else it may not seem so ordinary."

"Often, a picture just gets into my head without my having the least idea of how it got there."

"A red hill doesn't touch everyone's heart as it touches mine and I suppose there is no reason why it should."

"All the earth colours of the painter's palette are out there in the many miles of badlands. The light Naples yellow through ochres – orange and red and purple earth – even the soft earth greens." (On the red sand hills near the village of Alcalde, New Mexico.)

"It is not a country of light on things. It is a country of things in light." (On New Mexico.)

"One can't paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt."

"Nothing is less real than realism ... It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things."

"I know I can not paint a flower, I can not paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning but maybe in terms of paint colour I can convey to you my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time."

"A hill or tree cannot make a good painting just because it is a hill or a tree. It is lines and colours put together so that they say something. For me that is the very basis of painting"

"When I started painting the pelvis bones I was most interested in the holes in the bones – what I saw through them – particularly the blue from holding them up in the sun against the sky as one is apt to do when one seems to have more sky than earth in one's world."


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