Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A tribute to O'Keeffe at the Domes?

The sign on the bottom left corner of the frame in the photo above reads as follows:
"Happy Birthday, Georgia O'Keefe. Look through this frame to view a tribute to her painting, 'Cow's Skull with Calico Roses' 1932."

I went to the Mitchell Park Domes today. The "tribute" was placed in the desert dome, of course. A little farther along and up the ramp was another picture frame. That one (see below) was placed in front of the artificial sandstone that helps create the illusion (sort of) of being in the desert right here in Milwaukee. I know: one needs a huge dose of suspension-of-disbelief, what with the omnipresent grid of reinforced concrete looming overhead. But, hey, we all need a little help getting through the winter around here!

I must admit I love the Domes! I've always found the experience a bit on the surreal side, especially at times like now when the snow is piled up in drifts outside. Unlike the zoo, where the unreality has a melancholy air to it, I actually enjoy the absurdity of the Domes. It's lovely to take off my coat and wander through the desert, the tropics, and the aromatic floral displays in the three domes.

As followers of Arts Without Borders know, I also love art, of course. And, as the title suggests, I'm catholic in my tastes. I don't mind a mix of low brow, high brow, or no brow. There are many good reasons to make art and there is room in the world for all kinds of the stuff! I've particularly enjoyed the few times I've been there when the Domes has invited artists to install their work in amongst the flowers. Susan Falkman's sensuous marble sculptures come to mind. (Long time ago.)

I'm particularly fond of Georgia O'Keeffe, too. In fact, when I was a student studying art education at U.W.--Madison (even longer ago!), I purchased and framed a reproduction of--I kid you not--'Cow's Skull with Calico Roses' (right) at the Art Institute of Chicago, which owns the original. It followed me for many years as I moved and hung on many walls in the places where I lived.

So, you might think I'd have enjoyed seeing this small tribute to her in the Domes.

Not so. I cringed. I couldn't help wondering how O'Keeffe would have reacted if she saw this "tribute" herself. Being familiar with some of the peculiarities of her sensibilities--she was famously reclusive and persnickety--I imagine her throwing a fit.

I fully expect that whoever was responsible for this had the best of intentions. How big a leap is it, after all, between this and the Art Institute cashing in on reproductions of her work? (Along with T-shirts, coffee mugs, and refrigerator magnets!) On the other hand, I don't think it would be too much to ask of anyone with the temerity to pay tribute to her, at the very least, to spell O'Keeffe's name correctly?

I do love the Domes, but I don't go very often and I don't know how long this "tribute" has been there. Since O'Keeffe's birthday was in November, I'm guessing maybe at least that long. Perhaps it's time to retire the tribute. I suggest another collaboration with a real, live artist.

The sign on this frame reads, "Happy Birthday, Georgia O'Keefe. Look through this frame to view a tribute to her painting, 'My Red Hills' 1938." Sigh.

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