Udall, Chapter 4: “Private Spaces: The Artist in a Place of Her Own”

by chunte4

I knew before reading this chapter that each artist would use their own idea of the home as a central theme in their work, but I was surprised by O’Keef’s distancing of herself from the welcoming, spiritual concept of home that Carr and Kahlo more readily embrace. Udall quotes her as saying “where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.” (pg. 217) While Udall does note O’Keef’s great attention to her art-making spaces expressed since childhood, O’Keef seems to view these spaces as means of facilitating her art making process alone. The rural open environments she chose to live in as well as the spare yet meticulously sculpted spaces she worked in provided more of a pragmatic use than a spiritual one. They functioned as an ideal space for an introverted individual as they allowed her to work in a peaceful environment free of unnecessary visual or social distractions, making it easier to organize her thoughts and paint without inhibitions. Like O’Keef, Carr needed a certain degree of isolation in order to work yet her connection with her surroundings related much more to her need for spiritual fulfillment from nature and animals. Udall describes Carr as one who “treated her animals as children,” and that for Carr “barns were places of health, contentment, intimacy with nature and living things.” (209) And of course, one can also see Carr’s love of the Canadian wilderness and wildlife in her paintings which almost all focus on some aspect on her spiritual self within that natural and untouched environment. Carr’s relationship with nature grew so comfortable however, that unlike O’Keef, she felt she needed to leave Canada in order to further her education in art. For Carr, her safe space did not always directly facilitate her art making process,  it instead insulated her and provided her with a sense of peace that helped her deal with her at times turbulent life. Similarly Khalo’s homes, particularly Casa Azul, provided her with a stable space and escape from the negative aspects of her life. Khalo, perhaps more than either Carr or O’Keef made her home a reflection of her thoughts, feelings, and life as a whole. She treated the house itself like a painting, covering it in bright colors and filling it with pots, dishes, sculptures, and other works of art to create a lively visual experience. Other objects, such as the plaster corsets left over from previous surgeries were painted and subsequently displayed in rooms throughout the house as an even more personal expression of the self. Unlike Carr and O’Keef, Khalo was not afraid of expressing herself to the public even in her most private space. Her home always remained her own place of uninhibited creative freedom and peace of mind regardless of who was in it, something I think all three artists strove for, and achieved in their own ways.

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