Poem: On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keefe

I love Georgia O’Keefe’s quirky paintings and perspective.  She did a lot of work using skulls, which seems quite natural. New Mexico must yield all sorts of bones in the mountains and deserts. Just as she studied and painted flowers, so she did the same with animal bones and skulls. She was very prolific in her work, painting a skull or pelvis in many views, often accompanied by a flower or other desert item. Many didn’t like her bone paintings, but that didn’t deter her in the slightest. Even her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, was initially critical of them. He later relented, as did most critics. To find beauty in death and decomposition and to create art that is somehow mesmerizing and thoughtful is quite an accomplishment.

This poem is from my chapbook (Erasing the Doubt (c) 2015, Finishing Line Press). It is hidden amongst just a few of these wonderful paintings.

okeefe and skull

Georgia O’Keefe and cow skull

 

 

bob-steer-head.jpg!Large

Bob’s Steer Head by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936

Cow's Skull with Roses

Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1931

 

 

 

On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keeffe

 

  1. The Artist’s View of the Skull as Form

 

The sinuous curve
hollowed circle
smooth chalky bone
worn smooth, it goes
beyond the form
behind the slow dip
of the arching eye
twisting and curving
back on itself

 

2. The Skull’s Perspective

 

At first it all felt wrong,
reversed, bent forward
in a geometric embrace
of mass and space,
the brush stroke
through the hollow eye
that will never see,
beyond to the delicate shell
of the brain
that will never again think,
moving slowly
into that shadow of light
the sky insinuates itself in color
and it is there
that you alone can wander,
deep inside the form that is me

 

Georgia O'Keeffe, Ram's Skull with Hollyhock, in 1935

Georgia O’Keeffe, Ram’s Skull with Hollyhock, (c) 1935

deers-skull-with-pedernal.jpg!Large

Deer’s Skull with Pedernal by Georgia O’Keefe (c) 1936

 

 

3 thoughts on “Poem: On Viewing a Skull Painting by Georgia O’Keefe

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