Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta
21 January - 5 March 2006
Installation: 24 plinths with soil samples; 3-channel video; museum artifacts; photographs
Seeking Georgia examines the life and work of American painter, 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 residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute (SFAI) enabled Kavanagh to travel widely through New Mexico, experiencing the land and culture where O'Keeffe lived and worked in the mid-twentieth century. Utilizing ethnographic and archival research methods, Kavanagh interpreted large quantities of data to create the exhibition, which included photographs paired with reproductions of O’Keeffe’s paintings; earth samples displayed museologically; and a video installation presenting the artist interacting 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 Raisonné (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.