Spare and Elegant

2013-08-17 11.02.53

A room at the Hyde

The Hyde Collection is one of those mansion museums where the owners knew they were forming a museum collection.  The rooms and collection merge in function and display.  Personally, I wouldn’t mind staying in the guest bedroom with the Winslow Homer drawing overhead.


Georgia O’Keeffe


I made the trip to the Adirondack’s to see their Georgia O’Keeffe show.  She and Stieglitz spent a lot of time at Lake George, before it was a tourist trap.  While not a huge fan of hers, I really was taken with this early work.  Through the small exhibit, organized thematically, we see her find a confident voice of abstraction.  A large, extreme close of a jack-in-the-pulpit over the course of four canvasses becomes a line in a plane.

What I was taken with were not the flowers but the leaves.  Stunning studies of line in somber color, spare and elegant.  Her series of trees were evocative, full of personality, that the cell phone tour described a couple of times as cruciform.  I suppose the disappeared chestnut tree is a martyr of sorts.

Modern Nature: Georgia O'Keeffe and Lake George

Georgia O’Keeffe
The Chestnut Grey

The landscapes from the early 1920s were simplified into shapes that could be hung vertically and become wholly abstract.  I strongly preferred the “representational” horizontals, moody and stormy and quiet and seasonal.

Georgia O’Keeffe
Lake George

Thinking of O’Keeffe, what’s a woman to do?  Leave Stieglitz and go West, find a different palette, carve her own forms.

What’s a 46 year old star of the New York City Ballet to do?  Have four male choreographers create duets for her.  These four new dances, some moments sublime, others a miss, each from this past year, are premiering at Jacob’s Pillow.

What worked best was the spare and elegant.  No curtain or sets, no elaborate costumes.  Instead the focus was on bodies, space, and music.  I love that!

So Whelan is finding a new vocabulary for her body (contemporary dance vs ballet), one that is a little too grindingly Philip Glass for me.  But power to her.

In a society that all too easily throws away older woman, how healing to witness two women who continually find ways to reinvent.