In "Georgia O'Keeffe: At Home in the Wonderful Nothing," a text accompanying the exhibition catalogue Georgia O'Keeffe: Watercolors 1916-1918
(Radius Books and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, 2016), Amy Von Lintel
investigates a lesser studied period in O'Keeffe's life and work: the artist's time in West Texas. In 1916, at the age of twenty-eight, O'Keeffe moved to Canyon, Texas to accept a position as founding faculty of the West Texas State Normal College. O'Keeffe had first journeyed to West Texas in 1912 to teach in the newly founded Amarillo City Public School District. During her time in Canyon, she produced 51 watercolors (46 of which are reproduced in the book), characterized by a level of experimentation that foreshadows her later work. The dry, flat lands of the region, and the stark horizons with their dramatic shadows and sunsets, appealed to O'Keeffe.
From 1916-1918, she used watercolor to render landscapes, abstract images, and nude studies of her own body while learning to live in an American West so different from other parts of the United States. Some of the watercolors were shown by Alfred Stieglitz at the 291 Gallery in New York City but O'Keeffe kept many of them in her private collection for the duration of her life. Von Lintel's discussion of O'Keeffe is framed by the author's study of letters and records from the O'Keeffe archive at Yale University's Beinecke Library made available in 1986, as well as correspondence between O'Keeffe and Stieglitz released in 2006. O'Keeffe's observations are carefully documented throughout the text and offer insight into her personality and aesthetic ideas. Von Lintel also introduces readers to O'Keeffe as a teacher, another part of the artist's identity that took form in the influential Texas years.
Kirstin L. Ellsworth has a Ph.D. in the History of Art from Indiana University (2005) and currently, is an Assistant Professor of Art History at California State University Dominguez Hills. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.