Artists my teachers made me hate…

Now first of all, my teachers never really made me hate an artist, but there are a few I disliked for a very long time because of school. It wasn’t the artists, and it really wasn’t the teachers. I would say that the reason certain artists just irked me for the longest time was the constant repetition of learning the same facts about their work.

Pablo Picasso? Hated him.

Frida Kahlo? The worst.

Georgia O’Keefe? Don’t get me started.

I get it! It's a vulva! What more do you want from me???

Ok, ok. Get me started. I specifically do want to talk about O’Keefe. The other day in my women/gender/art class we had a number of presentations explaining the work of women artists and how they addressed gender issues. Of course, O’Keefe was a natural choice for one student’s presentation.

More after the jump!

I watched her take the stage with a sigh, O’Keefe again? I get it! She painted women’s genitalia! There was nothing this student could say that would interest me. I would stare at the screen glassy eyed for the next ten minutes. But then she started her slideshow. And it was great. As much as I wanted to be uninterested, I was absorbed in the work.

I don’t think that I’ve actually looked–and I mean looked–at an O’Keefe since the eighth grade. I’d only remembered a blur of colors and vaguely suggestive shapes. When I look now I realize how beautiful and simple her work is. The color choices fit the scene or objects perfectly, and the pieces flow with this amazing dynamic feeling.

One of my favorite works I've seen so far

Skull with Calico Roses

Skull with Calico Roses is one of my favorite works by her. Everything is so soft and yet defined at the same time. The symbolism is something I didn’t appreciate as a child, but now I feel as though I can relate. The depiction of female sexuality is often represented in a negative light in the art world, and O’Keefe’s work feels almost friendly. Apparently this piece is on display at the art institute of Chicago. I’m upset that I’ve never gone to see it seeing as how it was so close.

So now I’ve had my little O’Keefe reunion. What I really wanted to talk about was how elementary school will make artists seem unimpressive. I wish that I could ask my art teachers from elementary and middle school to pick other artists, ones that they cared about and knew interesting things about, but I’m sure that their coverage of Monet and Van Gogh (the constant, constant, Van Gogh!) was mandated by the school.

I could even understand covering only these artists, they are great artists after all, but I wish that we wouldn’t repeat the material so often. In the time that I relearned everything about Dali I could have learned about more contemporary artists, or even artists that are masters but less mentioned in schools, like Caravaggio or Rafael.

Really there’s not much I can do other than take another look at artists I wrote off as boring. Anyone else have a similar experience?

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