Seeking Georgia

Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta
21 January - 5 March, 2006
Exhibition Catalogue PDF

[24 plinths with soil samples | 3-channel video installation | museum artifacts | photographs]

Seeking Georgia examines the life and work of American painter and cultural icon, Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986). The project began with an exploration of the regions of northern New Mexico where O'Keeffe produced some of her most enduring landscape paintings. A two-month residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) allowed Mary Kavanagh to travel widely through New Mexico, experiencing the places where O'Keeffe lived and worked through the mid-twentieth century. Utilizing ethnographic and archival research methods, Kavanagh interpreted large quantities of data to create the exhibition, which culminated in a series of photographs paired with reproductions of O’Keeffe’s paintings; samples of earth displayed museologically; and a video installation presenting the artist performing a series of interactions with a lifelike portrait bust of O’Keeffe.

Each of the plinths in Seeking Georgia signifies a particular site in the Northern New Mexican desert painted by O'Keeffe. Arranged in ordered rows, the plinths are topped with glass vitrines that display neat piles of coloured earth. Relics of a pilgrimage, the soil samples were gathered at 24 identified painting locations. Each plinth bears an explanatory inscription that refers to the painting(s) made at the corresponding site with a numbering system adapted from Georgia O'Keeffe Catalogue Raisonne (2004). At one end of the gallery, a bronze bust of O'Keeffe is displayed. This bust was commissioned by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and in 1967 at the age of 80, Georgia O'Keeffe sat for this portrait by sculptor, Una Hanbury. Dwight Hackett Projects in Santa Fe loaned this copy for exhibition.