Michael A. Vaccaro (American, born 1922)
Chromogenic print; 18 1/2 x 14 5/8 in. (47 x 37.1 cm)
Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1961 (61.565.36)
In this 1960 photograph, the artist, age seventy-three, poses next to her earlier canvas, Pelvis Series, Red with Yellow (1945). The painting is part of a large series of compositions made between 1943 and 1947 that depict an animal pelvis bone, viewed either in its entirety or in fragmentary detail. Usually O'Keeffe reproduced the natural bleached-gray color of the bone, but here she deviates into expressively bold colors that make the image appear more abstract. By eliminating all extraneous detail and any sense of place, our attention is focused solely on the essential elements of the compositionthe empty socket of the bone through which a golden sky can be seen. Her friend, the novelist Jean Toomer, once noted that she painted "the universe through the portal of a bone."