Beading with the Masters: Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O’Keeffe’s work will always hold a special place in my heart, as she was born and raised in Sun Prairie– a neighbor of my own hometown in southern Wisconsin. The Wild West called to Georgia O’Keeffe and she landed in New Mexico. I, too, felt that pull and ended up here in Colorado. I grew up in Wisconsin knowing about her art, and I looked up to her as a creative role model.

Known for her independent spirit and unique style, she was the first female painter to join the Modernist movement. She was celebrated by feminists as the originator of “female iconography,” but O’Keeffe refused to join the feminist art movement as she disliked being called a “woman artist” and, in the most ironically feminist way, wanted to be considered just “an artist.”

I’m an art geek and love exploring art history. I’ve been enjoying learning what inspired artists’ work and tapping into their stories. I’ve selected my favorite notable artists, and in the month of their birth I’ll share their stories with you, and draw correlations between them and beaded jewelry design.

If you’re into art history, too, be sure to check my previous article about artist Pablo Picasso, or read the entire Beading with the Masters series to get all caught up with what I’ve shared so far!

Georgia O’Keeffe

Blue Hydrangea Bangle, Wild Sage Bracelet, Kumi Petals Bracelet, Daydream Earrings

Large Flower Motifs

One of the things Georgia O’Keeffe is best known for is her abstracted, large flower motif paintings. Flowers inspire art across all artistic mediums, and you can find floral influences in a vast amount of bead woven jewelry. Keeping Georgia O’Keeffe in mind, I selected some patterns that feature flower motifs from the Interweave store:

  • The gradients of color and “zoomed in” look of the flower motifs in the Blue Hydrangea Bangle by Andrea Mazzenga seem to be inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of irises and petunias.
  • The Wild Sage Bracelet by Debora Hodoyer makes me think of the places that the plant naturally grows. These high desert regions captured Georgia O’Keeffe’s heart and provided infinite subject matter for her paintings.
  • The two colorways of Svetlana Chernitsky’s Kumi Petals Bracelet remind me of the colors Georgia O’Keeffe used for the sky and flowers in lots of her paintings.
  • Debora Hodoyer chose those same soft colors and large flower motifs in her Daydream Earrings. Georgia O’Keeffe spent a lot of time solo-exploring the land she loved in northern New Mexico, so I imagine she did a lot of daydreaming, too.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Sedona Sunset Bracelet, Gold Mine Earrings, Tucson Vista Necklace, Dancing Diamonds Bracelet

Southwestern Styles

In the mid-1930s, Georgia O’Keeffe used imagery of a deer skull floating above the desert horizon, with various flowers painted nearby in many of her paintings. When I think of Georgia O’Keeffe, these paintings are what come to my mind. There is something that feels so quintessentially Southwestern about the imagery and colors that she used. Bead artists use color and texture to create a Southwestern style to their beaded jewelry, as well. Here are some of my favorite Southwestern-styled patterns:

  • Shanna Steele’s Sedona Sunset Bracelet has the rich copper and turquoise colors that Georgia O’Keeffe captured in some of her paintings where the earth meets the sky.
  • The Gold Mine Earrings by Silke Steuernagel are a marriage of Southwestern colors and Art Deco styling—both of which must have been a huge influence on Georgia O’Keeffe’s work.
  • The Tucson Vista Necklace has the bold colors that Georgia O’Keeffe did not shy away from, either. The sweeping desert views and intense skies of the Southwest inspired both designer Shanna Steele and Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • Carole E. Hanley’s Dancing Diamonds Bracelet has the geometric styling that Southwestern styles love, with the colors to boot. White is a “color” that is often overlooked by bead artists, but is so important to painting. Georgia O’Keeffe used a lot of color in her art, but there’s one color that’s in every single painting—white.

If you’re wild about Southwestern styles, and want more, check out the Fast and Fabulous Southwest Pattern Pack. Brimming with rich, vivid colors, and natural materials, you’re sure to find a few projects you can crank out fast!

Georgia O’Keeffe worked almost continuously until two years before her death in 1986 at the age of 98 even though she lost the majority of her vision from macular degeneration in her mid-80s. She was awarded many of the highest honors an artist can receive, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts, and induction into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Her dedication to her art earned her a reputation as being severe, even “prickly,” and she lived her life very much on her own terms. That endears her to me even more.

If you love learning about art while finding some new beading projects, read the entire series of Beading with the Masters!

Meredith Steele
Technical Editor, Beadwork magazine

Featured Image: Blue Hydrangea Bangle, Kumi Petals Bracelet, Wild Sage Bracelet, Tucson Vista Necklace, Dancing Diamonds Bracelet

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