Yellow Calla 1926 by Georgia O’Keeffe

an Interpretation and appreciation by Cindy Camperlengo

Image inspired by O’Keeffe

Yellow Calla 1926

Updated: Nov 24, 2019

an interpretation by Cindy Camperlengo, 1996

Yellow Calla painted in 1926 by Georgia O’Keeffe, is oil painted on fiberboard the painting size is 9 and 3/8 by 12 and 3/4 the size is minute compared to the enormous impact the painting had on me.

A close-up of the flower is typical of O’Keeffe’s style, her style was unique; she had an exceptional talent for shaping her botanicals. O’Keeffe would crop very tight around one blossom using minimal background. Her art is more abstract than representational, for her images may refer to the real world but do not duplicate it the Yellow Calla is characteristic of this style.

The Yellow Calla is very symbolic of sexuality. First, O’Keefe’s edges are defined by the color green. Green is considered in art to be emotionally symbolic of envy. images create lines that direct your eyes to the focal point. The focal point is the center of the flower. Secondly, the diagonal lines give rise to the movement for your eyes as well as your emotions, for diagonal lines imply action. Your eyes move from there darkest lines converging at the bottom left to the center of the flower. Finally, the shape of the flower is where most of the sexuality is implied. the folds in the petals at the bottom left appear to form part of a woman’s anatomy the focal point is also part of the women’s anatomy which stands quite erect.

The artist creates the illusion of natural light which obviously graces this painting. Although the light source is not present in the painting. illumination is suggested by the lighter areas of painting and the vibrance of the yellow.

O’Keefe reveals her nonconformity by being so bold with this high key yellow. I find the contrast of the green and the yellow appealing and particularly appreciate the values of green O’Keefe uses shading the flower so romantically. The depth from the shading causes her 3 dimensionaism. Her texture is bright, delicate, and smooth Georgia O’Keeffe is an artist to be admired and the Yellow Calla is a flower to be desired.


Yellow Calla, 1926

an interpretation by Cindy Camperlengo, 1996

Although this interpretation was guided by research at that time in 1996, further analysis of this work may bring legitimacy to Georgia O’Keeffe’s contention that her flowers do not represent intimate parts of the women’s body. Instead Yellow Calla is a tribute to sensual forces and ecstasy of nature itself.

As testament to her authenticity during the first twenty years of her career her concept was based on finding the essential abstract forms in the subject she painted. Her later works were also fashioned to this model.

Her Quotes further define her:

“I often painted fragments of things because it seemed to make my statement as well as or better than the whole could.”

-Georgia O’Keeffe

This quote reinforces her abstract of nature premise.

“I know now that most people are so closely concerned with themselves that they are not aware of their own individuality, I can see myself, and it has helped me to say what I want to say in paint.” -Georgia O’Keeffe

This last quote defines her self-awareness, she displays genuine attributes.

The flippant analysis of the Freudian interpretations of her flower series diminished her concept of the abstract painting. In the 1920’s, Sigmund Freud’s theories became popular In the U.S., besides looking at art with an aesthetic value he postulated art is an expression of the artist unconscious thoughts or desires.

Myth and symbolism guide our thoughts as well, reading the title and descriptions on the lilies about the Greek Gods, it was said there is an association of the Calla Lily with Venus and thus with lust and sexuality.

Today I refrain from crediting such theories due to the many misnomers in the psychological assessments I have witnessed. I tend to believe a self-aware, genuine person for it is easier to know yourself. Look for my Blog on Myth and Symbolism Coming Soon.

Cindy Camperlengo, 2019

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