Georgia O’Keeffe, health food devotee: the pioneer of modernism’s favourite recipes
The American artist lived until she was 98 and a new book of her favourite recipes might dedicate some clues as to how
Georgia OKeeffe was an icon of the American art world: a innovator of abstract modernism, with boldly innovative paints of flowers and bleached animal skulls. Lesser known is that her diet, too, was ahead of its time.
A new cookbook of OKeeffes personal recipes Dinner with Georgia OKeeffe: Recipes, Art and Landscape, by the Australian author Robyn Lea uncovers she was a precursor to todays organic, slow food movement, a health food devotee who made her own yoghurt.
A hundred years ago, OKeeffes first solo exhibition set up in New York and, in 2014, her 1932 painting Jimson Weed/ White Flower No 1 set a record cost for a run by a female artist, selling at Sothebys for $44.4 m. With her art so highly coveted, it is unsurprising that an astute luxury publisher such as Assouline believes there is also a receptive market awaiting her recipes. But her lifestyle habits will be of interest to an audience beyond art aficionado since OKeeffe lived until the age of 98.
In photographs, OKeeffe appears unsmiling and stern-looking, garmented in a largely androgynous uniform of monochromes and striking silhouettes. She was often photographed by her husband and mentor, the photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz but knowing what she liked to eat goes some way to humanise her beyond his powerful black and white images.
You various kinds of feel like youre reading people diary in a way, eating the food they eat, because its quite a personal thing, Lea tells. She really was quite a force for this new way of thinking across so many levels, whether in art, food, dress and interiors.
The book is a companion piece of sorts to Leas 2015 volume, Dinner with Jackson Pollock, which featured the personal recipes of the celebrated modern painter. Lea believes it is natural that she should follow up her Pollock book with one on OKeeffe. If “youre thinking about” the hero male icon and the hero female icon of the 20 th century in art in America, they are the two.
When Lea began conducting online research from her home in Melbourne, she knew nothing of OKeeffes eating habits. It was four months later in March 2016 that she visited the Georgia OKeeffe Research Centre in New Mexico and detected a trove of OKeeffes handwritten recipes, along with magazine cuttings and instructional handbooks for her yoghurt maker and various kitchen accoutrements. What fascinated me was how the three elements of food, art and nature worked together both visually and philosophically in OKeeffes life, Lea says.
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