All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Jessica Dallow

Advisory Committee Members

Cathleen Cummings

Lucy Curzon

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2016

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) became known as one of the first and most prolific American modern artists of the twentieth century. Her expansive oeuvre, which spans over six decades, is primarily comprised of pure abstractions, large-scale flower paintings, and series of landscapes, crosses, and bones from the southwestern landscape of New Mexico, where she spent the latter half of her life. In the mid-1920s however, O’Keeffe created approximately twenty images of the skyscrapers of New York City, her home from 1918 to 1949. This thesis argues that within this skyscraper series, O’Keeffe fully realized her uniquely personal and recognizable language. This language, which is also reflected in her hundreds of letters, is created by a delicate and precise combination of abstract and representational forms. O’Keeffe temporarily overcame the early critical response to her charcoal and painted abstractions of the 1910s as subconscious and sexual expressions by creating her skyscraper series, which was grounded in the representational objects that comprised the modern city. O’Keeffe appropriated photographic techniques, such as lens flare and halation, in her paintings of the powerful buildings. In this way, she both elevated and controlled the medium of her controlling husband, Alfred Stieglitz, who initially orchestrated O’Keeffe’s exhibitions and influenced the Freudian interpretations of her work. By fully realizing her own artistic license and establishing a new public persona with the skyscraper series, this thesis argues that O’Keeffe was consequently able to direct the remainder of her professional and personal life, where she lived and produced art in the expansive Southwest.

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