To celebrate the opening of the Tate Modern’s retrospective of American modernist painter Georgia O’Keeffe, photographer Petra Collins has reinterpreted her work in a surreal, dreamlike video sequence.
Bringing to life the desertscapes of New Mexico and sprawling scenes of Lake George in upstate New York O’Keeffe was famous for, the Canadian photographer got together some of her creative muses to interact with the environments, including Barbara Ferreira, Lee Armoogam, Seasheel Coker, Maia Ruth Lee and Ajani Russell. Archival interviews with O’Keefe from the Tate are overlaid on the pastel tableaux.
Speaking to Vogue about her love for the Wisconsin-born painter, Collins said: “I was in a colour class. I was so drawn to her work, the shapes and lines, how she took a simple American landscape and made it into this soft but also super-hard object. Her paintings are pretty realistic, but they’re also very surreal.”
Collins uses her homage to explore the nuances of O’Keeffe’s themes: many imposed ideas of sexuality and the female body onto her work, when really, it was a much more organic process. “I tried to paint what I saw,” the painter says in the audio. “I thought someone could tell me how to paint a landscape, but I never found that person. I had to just settle down and try. I thought somebody could tell me how, but I found nobody could. They could tell you how they painted their landscape, but they couldn’t tell me to paint mine.”
“People always wanted to sexualise her, to make her work about sex, to make it about the female body. It could be, but I found it really interesting that she couldn’t paint her own landscape without people putting these connotations on it,” Collins explained. “People were telling her, this is this. And she would say, No: My landscape is my landscape.”
Exploring her own artistic parallels with the painter, Collins said: “I feel like that’s what I do, and what a lot of the girls in this video do, too.”
The retrospective on the trailblazing twentieth century artist is on at the Tate Modern 6 July – 30 October, with over 100 of her artworks on display.