Monday, February 4, 2013

A Plan for Poppies

American artist Georgia O'Keefe 
is famous for her paintings of bright red poppies;
other flowers like pansies, iris, and lilies;
and scenes from the dry deserts of the American Southwest.
I've seen some of her flower paintings at exhibits in Williamsburg, Virginia
and at the O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Her colorful brush strokes deftly created deep folds 
and rich textures in each bloom.
They are quite fantastic, 
and yet, there is also a trace of something unremarkable about them 
when viewed in person.

I don't know if it's because the images are now so ubiquitous
that they have become commonplace.
Or maybe it's that, while still bright and saturated,
 many of the colors are less intensely vivid 
than digital reproductions of the paintings would seem to suggest.

Maybe too it's because O'Keefe painted what she saw
as she went about her day,
not what was expected for Art in her time;
consequently her work seems to say, take me or leave me, 
your opinion doesn't concern me.

Maybe it is this juxtaposition of her independent spirit
and the quotidian subject matter that also makes them so memorable.
O'Keefe said this about her flower portraits:
"Nobody sees a flower, really--it is so small we haven't time,
and to see takes time ... ."

photo courtesy of

And to plant them takes time too.
Every spring I see snappy red poppies planted around town,
and every year I realize it's too late to plant them.
From what I've read, in order for poppies to bloom in Tidewater in April,
they have to be sown directly into the soil in February.
And the problem is, I never think of gardening in February.
But this year, I thought of poppies for some reason;
then it occurred to me it is only February 4th,
so I have a short interval to buy some seeds and sow them.

photo courtesy of

I don't know if they will grow and bloom; but if they do,
 it would be nice to see them lining the walkway 
that leads to the red side door on our house.
I think the effect would be painting-worthy.
And if I plant them, and if they bloom,
I will walk by the bright red poppies,
pluck one or two, and remember something else that O'Keefe said:

"When you take a flower in your hand, and really look at it,
it's your world for the moment."

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