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Long before Georgia O’Keeffe started painting flowers or the great landscapes of the Southwest, she explored total abstraction and monochrome palate beginning in 1912. She delved deep into the world of Zen Buddhist inspired art making to get to the very essence of thing, not an imitation, but the TRUTH…the Zen way of seeing the world…
There is a plethora of influences that have determined the character of American art, and often, they are propelled by various external cultural influences. The question for this study has been twofold. First, whether within the large fabric of American art’s interrelated influences there has been a transmission of Zen Buddhist philosophy from the Japanese culture? Second and more specifically, did the introduction of Zen Buddhist art making, introduced by Alon Bemont, Ernest Fenollosa, and Arthur Westley Dow, influence the works of Georgia O’Keeffe?
Let me first state for the record, this book does not attempt to be a biography on Georgia O’Keeffe. For a comprehensive list of excellent biographies on O’Keeffe, simply refer to my List of Sources and Bibliography at the end. This book is an attempt to define a particular turning point in O’Keeffe’s journey as an artist and the players and publications who contributed. Long before she started painting flowers or the great landscapes of the Southwest, she explored total abstraction and monochrome palate beginning in 1912. She opened her mind to new ideas and a new way of “seeing” the world around her. It is this particular turning point, a time in her life that is little known, that is what this book is about. It is my opinion that in the early twentieth-century Zen Buddhism successfully permeated the American culture and also influenced the works of Georgia O’Keeffe in her formative years beginning in 1912. The influences on the works of Georgia O’Keeffe came from the Zen Buddhist publications and the mentorship of Arthur Westley Dow (NYC), his mentor Ernest Fenollosa (Tokyo & Boston), and Dow’s assistant Alon Bemont (Virginia). I also believe as arts educators, they are the unsung heroes, and their contributions to the synthesis of Eastern and Western culture and its impact on American modern art.
There are several Zen Buddhist inspired components from Composition, written by Arthur Wesley Dow that inspired O’Keeffe’s works. The Japanese Zen Buddhist inspired concepts covered in this study is the black and white emphasis of No-tan found in Japanese Zen art. This Zen concept is most readily found in her charcoal drawings series entitled Specials (c 1914-15), her Blue Series (1916), and a floral composition (1927). I believe that through the instruction of Alon Bemont in Virginia and her later formal instruction with Arthur Westley Dow at Columbia Teachers College in New York, Georgia O’Keeffe returned to painting after a four year hiatus with a new passion and a new way of “seeing” the world. This study aims at defining these attributes and exploring their impact on the art of Georgia O’Keeffe. Quote from Zen and Oriental Art:
“In Zen, the meanings often lie beyond language but can be revealed in visual form…To approach this reality with a Western background or common sense is not possible-in order to understand Zen one must experience it first-hand.”
I am very excited to report that this book is published and available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Note, you do not need an Amazon Kindle to read it. You can download a Kindle reader on any PC, Mac, Android, or iPhone for free.
3 Day Promo: Download a Free copy of “The Influence of Zen Buddhism on the Art of Georgia O’Keeffe” on Amazon Kindle from Thursday, May 29th – Saturday May 31st. Click to purchase at the appropriate Amazon store: U.S. Amazon - Amazon Germany - Amazon UK - Amazon France - Amazon Brazil - Amazon Mexico – Amazon Japan - Amazon Australia – Amazon Italy - Amazon India – Amazon Spain
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