Georgia Okeeffe was a modern pioneer in the arts. She was a great visionary fuelling the impact of the modernist movement which still resonates down to us today.
So what does it take to be a pioneer in the arts? – I think the following quote by Georgia Okeeffe, says it all really.
“I had been taught to work like others and after careful thinking I decided that I wasn’t going to spend my life doing what had already been done, I realized that I had things in my head not like what I had been taught – not like what I had seen – shapes and ideas so familiar to me that it hadn’t occurred to me to put them down. I decided to stop painting, to put away everything I had done, and to start to say the things that were my own.”
This concept that you need to learn the basics and then throw it all away and start again, is not a new one, however not many artists do it. Although we do find that many of the arts pioneers have had classical training, only to discard it and find another way to explore their vision. The dictionary informs us that a person who is a pioneer is one who develops or is the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity). We find this same situation in the music world as well.
I recently heard an interview with Jack Bruce from the rock band Cream during which he stated that he had spent a long time unlearning the classical training he had had in order to be able to break new ground in his song writing and musical direction.
I would suggest, however, that without the prior training both of these artists had, they would have found it difficult to go forward. The thing training gives us is a grounding in techniques, like scales in music or understanding the importance of dark and light in an art work. These things have become second place to the more mature artist and allow a freedom to experiment because there is an instinctual foundation there for the artist to work upon.
I would suggest that there are many pioneers within the art world, although most of them will never be officially recognised. After all creativity and artistic process often lead us to engage in pushing the boundaries of what we know, to find a new image, sound, or technique which will give us the vision we are seeking.
What is more difficult is engaging in work that sends the whole of the art world in a completely different direction. This is indeed truly groundbreaking. And the more time that passes actually the more difficult this becomes because so many avenues have already been explored.
There is an exhibition currently showing in the New South Wales Art Gallery, which presents the works of Georgia O’Keeffe, Margaret Preston, and Grace Cossington-Smith. These three artists came of age during a time of great social and cultural transition in the 1910’s and 1920’s. The three women rejected the artistic conventions of the day and forged new ways of capturing the world on their canvases. They were at the forefront of the great pioneering artists of international modernism.
If you live in Sydney I highly recommend going to see this exhibition which is on from July 1 to October 2, 2017. It is the first time there has been a major showing of O’Keefe’s works in Australia. There are around 30 works by each artist being presented.
A visit to this exhibition will give you some idea of what it takes to become a Pioneer as an artist.
This Weeks Question: What would you have to change about your artwork to become a pioneer in the arts?
Look For Next Week’s Post: Why is the blank canvas so intimidating and what to do about that?