Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life in Art, a Short Documentary on the Painter Narrated by Gene Hackman

On a road trip across Amer­i­ca last year, I made a stop in San­ta Fe, New Mex­i­co, and thus had the chance to vis­it the Geor­gia O’Ke­effe Muse­um. Though I’d already known some­thing of the influ­en­tial Amer­i­can painter’s life and work, I had­n’t under­stood the depth of her con­nec­tion to, and the extent of the inspi­ra­tion she drew from, the Amer­i­can South­west. “This is O’Ke­effe coun­try,” says Gene Hack­man, nar­ra­tor of the thir­teen-minute doc­u­men­tary Geor­gia O’Ke­effe: A Life in Art that screens per­pet­u­al­ly at the muse­um but which you can also watch just above, “a land the painter made indeli­bly her own. North­ern New Mex­i­co trans­formed the artist’s work and changed her life.”

“As soon as I saw it, that was my coun­try,” says the artist her­self. “I’d nev­er seen any­thing like it before, but it fit­ted to me exact­ly. There’s some­thing in the air; it’s just dif­fer­ent. The sky is dif­fer­ent, the stars are dif­fer­ent, the wind is dif­fer­ent.”

I have to agree with her; my own great Amer­i­can road trip showed me not only that the states real­ly do look dif­fer­ent from each oth­er, but that New Mex­i­co — which at first struck me as a Krazy Kat land­scape come to life — looks most dif­fer­ent of all. O’Ke­effe first went to New Mex­i­co for a year and a half in 1929, in her ear­ly for­ties, and returned each year over the next two decades, mov­ing there per­ma­nent­ly in 1949 and dying in San­ta Fe in 1986, at the age of 98.

Though she remains best known in art his­to­ry for her paint­ings of flow­ers that make their view­ers see them in a way they’ve nev­er seen flow­ers before, New Mex­i­co intro­duced a whole new sen­si­bil­i­ty into O’Ke­ef­fe’s body of work. This holds espe­cial­ly true of her time at Ghost Ranch, whose loca­tion in an area called Piedra Lum­bre, or “Shin­ing Rock,” pro­vid­ed the painter with the strik­ing­ly col­ored cliffs and oth­er almost unre­al-look­ing nat­ur­al forms that made their way into her equal­ly sub­lime land­scapes. “The best place in the world,” she called it, and if we can mea­sure places by what they move human beings to cre­ate, her words hard­ly sound like an exag­ger­a­tion.

Geor­gia O’Ke­effe: A Life in Art will be added to our list of Free Doc­u­men­taries, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Hand­writ­ing as Prac­ticed by Famous Artists: Geor­gia O’Keeffe, Jack­son Pol­lock, Mar­cel Duchamp, Willem de Koon­ing & More

The Real Geor­gia O’Keeffe: The Artist Reveals Her­self in Vin­tage Doc­u­men­tary Clips

Fri­da Kahlo Writes a Per­son­al Let­ter to Geor­gia O’Keeffe After O’Keeffe’s Ner­vous Break­down (1933)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • L E says:

    I was look­ing for­ward to check­ing this out, but was stopped cold in my tracks when I saw that it wasn’t a woman nar­rat­ing. Then to find out not only that, but the irony of hav­ing a man with a long his­to­ry of abuse towards women was just too much. Such a pity, as I love her art.

  • justin rivera says:

    Regard­less of whether it was her ini­tial work paint­ing blos­soms or the rak­ish high ris­es she made from her Man­hat­tan loft, she refined her per­spec­tive down, strip­ping all the point­less visu­als of authen­tic­i­ty away into some cen­ter reflec­tion of the indis­pens­able feel of the thing. All the while, she changed the scene of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, in a real sense.

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