Columbia Museum of Art
1515 Main St.
Columbia, South Carolina
The Columbia Museum of Art announces an exciting exhibition of 14 works examining American painter Georgia O’Keeffe’s intimate artistic epiphany experienced in South Carolina. In 1915, Georgia O’Keeffe radically redefined herself as an artist. She found her voice with a series of black and white charcoal drawings she collectively titled Specials. What happened next is the stuff of legend: Her Charleston friend Anita Pollitzer took these drawings, unbeknownst to the artist, and showed them to photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz who proclaimed, “At last, a woman on paper.” This was the beginning of one of the most important careers in all of American art.
Georgia O’Keeffe: Her Carolina Story brings together a selection of these early drawings, supplemented by paintings that closely relate in chronology to the drawings. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., and the High Museum in Atlanta, G.A., are the major lenders to the show. The exhibition is presented in partnership with Columbia College and their centennial celebration of O’Keeffe’s time teaching there, Ideas of My Own.
Georgia O’Keeffe: Her Carolina Story explores the artist’s work produced in Columbia and celebrates the 100th anniversary of her time at Columbia College and the great untold story of her development as modernist. Despite its manifest importance in O’Keeffe’s artistic journey, an exhibition focusing on these early works has never before been done.
"The name Georgia O'Keeffe conjures images of outsized flowers and skulls floating in the high desert air," says CMA Chief Curator Will South. "Few folks think of abstract, black and white charcoal drawings. But it was abstract drawing of the kind no one had yet seen in 1915 that started O'Keeffe on her way to becoming the artist we know her to be. And, it was here in Columbia where she laid aside all of her early work —realizing it looked like the work of her teachers —and started all over. With just charcoal. The CMA's latest exhibition, Georgia O'Keeffe: Her Carolina Story, puts a spotlight on O'Keeffe's time teaching here, at Columbia College, and how a century ago she became one of America's most innovative and best-loved artists."
Independent Spirits: Women Artists of South Carolina will open in conjunction with Georgia O’Keeffe. South Carolina has produced and nourished many “independent spirits,” women who work against the social grain to pursue modern and experimental means of artistic expression. Independent Spirits is a selection of 26 works by women from across the state, women who, like O’Keeffe, are forging their own path.
"Searching for artists to represent Independent Spirits: Women Artists of South Carolina has been a remarkable journey," says exhibition curator Victoria Cooke. "I looked across the state and for artists working in a variety of media. Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe, I sought women who demonstrated her commitment to artistic experimentation. I uncovered an embarrassment of riches. Independent Spirits is a mere sampling of the remarkable array of artists in this state from the Upcountry to Charleston."
Whether they work in painting, sculpture, assemblage, ceramics, or installation, these artists represent the undeniable role that women play in shaping the future of the arts in South Carolina.
“We are excited about Georgia O’Keeffe: Her Carolina Story for its contributions to more fully understanding O'Keeffe and the importance of her experiences right here in Columbia and her friendship with Charleston’s Anita Pollitzer,” says CMA Executive Director Karen Brosius. “And we are thrilled to shine a light on the talent here in South Carolina today with Independent Spirits. It is a pleasure and a privilege for the Columbia Museum of Art to tell the story of the creativity taking place in our state—both a hundred years ago and right now."
Also on view will be two small exhibitions celebrating the CMA’s tradition of collecting works by and supporting women artists, Original Spirits: Early Women Artists from the Collection and Our Independent Spirit: Celebrating the Life and Art of Leslie Pierce.
Original Spirits is a nod to the talent and accomplishments of artists in our state who staked a claim for the role of women not only in the arts, but as equals in every area of cultural and political endeavor.
Leslie Pierce was with the museum for nearly 20 years before passing away this summer. She was a shining light for culture in Columbia and a beacon for the museum, all while being fiercely independent herself. Our Independent Spirit showcases her artistic talents, her sense of humor, and most of all the profound impact she had on those around her.
The museum will have catalogues for Georgia O’Keeffe and Independent Spirits available in the CMA Shop. SCETV is producing a documentary on O’Keeffe’s time in Columbia. For more information about Columbia College’s centennial celebration, visit ideasofmyown.com. For more information about fall exhibitions, visit columbiamuseum.org/exhibitions.
Georgia O’Keeffe: Her Carolina Story and Independent Spirits: Women Artists of South Carolina are presented through the generosity of Presenting Sponsors: First Citizens, Joyce and George Hill, and Mungo Homes; Supporting Sponsors: Joe and Melissa Blanchard, SCE&G, and Mr. M. Edward Sellers; Contributing Sponsors: McDaniels Porsche, Dr. Gail M. Morrison, Ginny Newell and Bob Wilkins, and Ardis M. Savory; other support provided by South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, & Tourism, and Richland County.
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