"You imagine O’Keeffe lying prostrate on the wooden carpenter’s bench outside D.H. Lawrence’s Taos home, staring up at the night sky beneath the aptly named ponderosa pine. She stayed at this ranch belonging to Mabel Dodge Luhan on her first trip to the Southwest, five years after Lawrence had sloped back to Europe via Mexico with tuberculosis after writing St. Mawr there. The mental image that this summons of two of the titans of nature-worshipping modernism having cosmic and sexy thoughts beneath this ancient pine is as intoxicating as the picture itself.
O’Keeffe did not mind what orientation The Lawrence Tree 1929 was presented at. Like a mandala, its impact is one of an innate recognition of wholeness and divinity any which way you turn it. None the less, she did specify how she preferred it to be hung: the shaft seen from below should loom forward like a protective arch over the viewer. After impressive receding length the trunk gives way to a tealish-grey colored star-pocked night sky that is brought forward and then retreats as it appears at intervals through the dark mass of evergreen foliage and red synaptic branches. This is most thrilling where the white stars overlap the smudged edges of the thicket; the artist making the most of painting’s God-like ability to describe seeing through both eyes at once. Diffused patches of nebular warmth can be seen through the canopy directly above O’Keeffe/the viewer’s head.
I think this is a joyful painting to look at; it brings rushing back my experiences of when the magnificent impassiveness of nature feels like a protective shield against the conceits of mankind and his progress. In essence: the sublime (done the modernist way). I have admired O’Keeffe since my father brought me a print of one of her paintings back from New Mexico when I was a young teenager, and became fascinated by D.H. Lawrence in my early 20s. I generally feel a deep connection to the overarching modernist obsessions with inferring a macrocosmic limitlessness and describing a transitional state between epochs. In the current accelerationist context, with the potential of a transhumanist future close at hand, the works of these artists seem ever-more shamanic."
Lucy Stein [One of five artists from different generations who share their personal reflections on Georgia O’Keeffe.]