Georgia O'Keeffe Hated People Thinking Her Flower Paintings Are 'Vaginas'
To even the biggest amateur art aficionado, Georgia O'Keeffe is "that lady who painted vaginas," but try to say that to her face. You can't because she's been dead since 1986. Still, if you ever get the opportunity in some kind of Bill and Ted scenario, she'll probably close her eyes, take a deep breath, and prepare to explain to you that she's never painted a vagina, as she had to do her entire life.
She really was just painting flowers, y'all. They're so big and close-up because O'Keefe was interested in the close cropping techniques of contemporary photography, and she wanted to force the viewer to reckon with "the immensity of nature" and "make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what I see of flowers," a task at which she strove admirably but decidedly failed. Not through any fault of her own, of course. Naturally, the person responsible for making sure everyone perverted O'Keefe's pretty flowers was a man.
It was her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who began promoting her paintings as softcore porn in 1919, probably figuring genitals sell better than flora. Despite his wife's objections, he even solicited reviews and essays from a bunch of critics (who were, obviously, also men) to distribute as pamphlets at her shows, touting the sex appeal of a bunch of irises. Later in life, O'Keefe reached out to Mabel Dodge Luhan, hoping to convince the famed patron of the arts to write about her work from a feminine perspective so that someone, anyone, would give her paintings the G-rated credit they deserved. It just goes to show that you can be one of the greatest minds of your field, but if you're a woman, you'll always be reduced to genitals.
Top image: Georgia O'Keeffe/Wikimedia Commons