My passion for floral photography comes from my love of tracking down and snuggling up to spring wildflowers, visiting manicured New England gardens over the years with my parents, and the wild and emotive paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. Being from upstate New York myself, I am particularly drawn to her works from Lake George.
O’Keeffe lived for part of each year, 1918 until 1934, at photographer Alfred Stieglitz’s family estate on Lake George in New York’s beautiful Adirondack Mountains. Her Lake George years were among the most prolific of her seven-decade career. The 36-acre property along the western shoreline served as a rural retreat for the artist, providing the subject matter for much of her art. From her art I have been inspired to seek ways to capture the natural spirit of plant and place.
The O’Keeffe Lake George exhibition, which began its exclusive West Coast presentation at the De Young in February, is the first major exhibition to examine this body of work that Georgia O’Keeffe (1887‒1986) created based on her experiences in upstate New York. This exhibit is at the de Young until May 11.
Within a short walk from the De Young you can still find many verdant groups of Calla Lilies. The Calla Lily seems to have the soul of Georgia O’Keeffe with its flowers unfurling in similar yet unique forms on hefty long stalks flanked by broad twirling leaves. They are like flash mob dancers, moving together with a common beat yet making way for dissimilar posturing.
I find the shape of the Calla Lily, although unrelated, reminiscent of the Jack-in-the-pulpits depicted in one of O’Keeffe’s oil on canvas paintings in this show. It is permanently housed in The National Gallery of Art, Washington. Many spring/summer visits with my parents included photography excursions to the Adirondack forest floors that hosted the greening of the “Jack-in-the-pulpits.”
The Lake George Exhibit at the De Young includes “the full range of work she produced—including magnified botanical compositions inspired by the flowers and vegetables that she grew in her garden; telescopic views of a single leaf or pairs of overlapping leaves that are based on the variety of trees that grew around Lake George; architectural subjects, including abstracted paintings of the weathered barns and buildings on the Stieglitz property; and panoramic landscape views of the lake and surrounding hills that influenced her subsequent work in New Mexico.” (from the exhibit brochure)
Inspired by her work, I attempt to create images that present the quintessential nature of our Calla Lilies opening with anticipation of ceaseless love. These blossoms speak to me of the holiness of creation which seeks to move us into the joy of Shalom. The Calla Lilies represent elegance, grace and beauty.
The Calla Lily, like Georgia O’Keeffe, is a “female” that stands alone confident and proud and yet can stand harmoniously with others. Lake George represented transformative years for Georgia O’Keeffe, and now her work from there exudes transformative imaginative power for each of us!