Georgia O’Keeffe: Response Development

Gender 3

I was inspired by the controversy surrounding the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe. Those who have seen works by O’Keeffe will have probably at some point compared it to certain “female regions”, particularly “Black Iris III” and “Red Canna”. The artist herself denies this claiming:

“I made you take time to look at what I saw and when you took time to really notice my flower, you hung all your associations with flowers on my flower and you write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see—and I don’t.”

It is interesting that people suggest that these flowers are meant to represent areas of the female form as generally plants have both male and female sexual organs. It is almost trying to associate the flowers with a certain sex, when flowers themselves are not usually one sex. This is quite interesting seeing as the tulip I have painted here actually seems to be quite a phallic looking plant, with its long style and bulbous stigma. I wanted to play with this concept, fragmenting my oil painting into different layers to represent the complexities of plant anatomy and to show it’s not so simple as male and female.

I added the text “Gender is False” as not only were O’Keeffe’s works compared to the human form, but flowers are seen as feminine despite their male and female anatomy. Gender does not relate to someone’s sex, contrary to popular belief, rather, gender is more about social differences between stereotypical male and female characteristics rather than biological ones. In a way, gender in itself is false when looking at something scientifically, and I wanted to show that the flower is just a flower, it isn’t a “boy” or a “girl” it doesn’t represent male or female form, it is a form in itself and in this case, and in the case of O’Keeffe’s work, “Gender is False”.


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