The Cleveland Museum of Art recently hosted a fascinating exhibition on the life and work of art icon Georgia O’Keeffe. Several members of the evoDOMUS team went to see it, and it got us thinking about the way we design our buildings, of all things. The connection’s not obvious to you? Let us explain.
First, a note from the CMA’s webpage about the show:
“Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern offers a unique look into the fascinating connections between the paintings, personal style, and public persona of one of America’s most iconic artists. Throughout her 70-year career, O’Keeffe defied convention and forged a fiercely independent identity that was integral to her art. Showcasing several of her paintings alongside her garments—many shown here for the first time—and photographic portraits of her as a subject, the exhibition reveals O’Keeffe’s determination to be strikingly modern not only in her art but in her life. “
Most people know O’Keeffe’s flower paintings, famous as they are in American art history. But to reduce her to only those images is to do her a disservice. In many ways she treated her entire life as a work of art. She had very much absorbed the progressive principles of the Arts and Crafts movement of the era, which promoted the idea that everything a person made or chose to live with – art, clothing, home décor – should reflect a unified and visually pleasing aesthetic. She liked to say that even the smallest acts of daily life should be done beautifully.
Early in her life she made her own clothes, and she was an expert seamstress. There are several of her hand-sewn garments in the exhibition, and they are beautifully stitched. They have a certain level of detail – pintucking, handsome buttons, the occasional perfect bow – but are otherwise spare. She had already decided on her silhouette: no corsets and bustles for her. She wanted well-tailored practicality and comfort. She also favored natural fabrics, sticking with silk, cotton and wool, and her color palette was restricted to mainly black and white.
Later in her life she could afford to shop, and to have others make garments for her, but the silhouette and the overall aesthetic remained the same. She would buy multiples of the same dress or shoe (always a flat!) when she found something that worked for her. She did change her style and palette when she moved more permanently from the East Coast to the desert in New Mexico. She began to wear denim, and slightly more color, and her hat of choice was a vaquero.
The exhibition also focuses on the two homes that she lived in during the later years of her life, both in New Mexico. They are minimal, and lightly furnished with only the necessities of life, a few found objects and selected works of art. Most importantly, they were oriented toward the views and the light so that she could always be inspired. Made of adobe, they exuded visual warmth, and protected her from the desert’s swings in temperature.
All of this reminded us of our own buildings. Here is a quote from the evoDOMUS website:
We specialize in refreshing, clean-lined, generous and open contemporary designs with a healthy dose of excitement, depth and warmth. evoDOMUS homes draw inspiration from the school of modernism, consciously imbuing ideals of elegance, coherence and harmony.
There are just so many parallels to pick up on! We design our homes to have a “unified and visually pleasing aesthetic.” The detailing on them may be subtle and spare, but it is well-considered and completes the picture, and in many cases is responsive to the local surrounds. We want the rooms to work for our clients – to be suited to their way of life so that the home becomes a significant part of their day-to-day satisfaction. And we even orient our homes toward the views and the light, and gravitate to natural materials (wood, stone, tile) like O’Keeffe did. While we may not build using adobe, there are significant parallels between that temperature-moderating material and the ones we do work with.
The O’Keeffe exhibition is currently in Reno, Nevada at the Nevada Museum of Art, on view through the 20th of October 2019. After that it travels to the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida (November 22, 2019 through February 4, 2020). That means there is still time to see it if you are so inspired and live or are considering travel to either area. It is a small show, but it packs quite a punch. If you are not planning a winter vacation to either of those cities, there is a very well-reviewed hardcover catalog to accompany the show, available at most major booksellers. Regardless, take a moment to consider the way your current home works (or doesn’t) for you. If you are contemplating a change, talk to us at evoDOMUS about what we can do for you to make your daily life more beautiful, and more strikingly Modern.