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Past BCT Event

Past BCT Event

Visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler

Text by Elizabeth Miranda

Most of us have seen Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers in one form another – be it in books, on posters, or online.

But in fact, one has not seen O’Keefe’s flowers until you are standing before an actual painting. Then, you will become struck by its living, breathing magnificence: A single giant flower full of movement and light. It is a magical, sensual bloom that will send shivers through you and beckon and court you with its power.

Yes, the flowers are something to behold.

My favourite is the white, fanning, elliptical Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1; the waving deep-red Oriental Poppies, dark stains at their fertile centre – as are O’Keefe’s daunting New York skyscrapers. All angle and imposition, a stark demand of height and power, a thirst for something organic and mutable, for her flowers.

And then there are O’Keefe’s New Mexican landscapes – a single road unfurling like a ribbon through the desert, a point of study, leading nowhere and everywhere. The flat geometry of an adobe house – on its side a single perfect black square – a window! That lifts it into dimensionality, into otherness—the white of a deer’s skull against a blue sky.


I had these impressions while the other BCT volunteers and I walked through the gallery.

We had gathered that sunny morning for the excursion. Along with visions of good art, I carried a triumphant memory: the look of surprise on my husband and daughter’s faces when I told them I would be joining a group of moms of young kids (sans kids) for a Saturday morning outing.

“Moms of young kids?” “On grocery day?” they asked?

“Yes,” I replied.

I smiled and smiled.


You see, I am not your typical BCT volunteer.

My daughter is nearly 17, and I have no toddlers in tow. Snacks and sippy cups are things of the past. And while I don’t miss these objects very much, I yearn for the looks of wonder, joy and frustration that endlessly flash across a toddler’s face as they experience the world in all its newness. Hence the reason for me to volunteer with the BCT.


The moms and dads are pretty great too.

Where else but at a BCT playgroup might I discuss with a pensive mom on matters like what it was like to do women’s invisible work before people labelled it as such? Or wax about the benefits of empowered parenting techniques with a worn-out Dad (and how it works wonders during the teenager years).

Meanwhile, a toddler pulls out a tiny chair, wriggles onto the seat, and joyfully lays out tea for two. Or giggles delightedly as he sweeps the floor with a little broom and bangs pots and pans together, inventing music for the first time. Or grabs a toy from another indignant child while experiencing the ins and outs of sharing? Yes, it can be a dog-eat-dog world.

While I love the children and the parents, it is the interaction of people at different stages of life that I love the most. Indeed, this is something I love about Switzerland – from the grandmother who rollerblades through my neighbourhood to the young employee at the brocki who calls an elder over to help repair a drawer hinge. Or the young children bravely stopping traffic with both hands as they cross the street. Here, the elder’s place is not lost on the more youthful and vice versa.


Back to the O’Keefe exhibition:

Along with the beautiful paintings, there was a lot of great information about her life, of which I knew shockingly little except that she is known as the Mother of American Modernism. I discovered that the artist was a pioneer in the way she painted nature, simplifying its shapes and form. Furthermore, O’Keefe was the first female painter to gain respect in New York’s art world in the 1920s. She grew up close to nature on a dairy farm and was recognised early for her artistic talent. The exhibition also covered her marriage to Alfred Stieglitz and her rise in the New York art scene. Likewise, her seminal decision to move to New Mexico.


A side note about the day: No covid restrictions!

Along with being sans little ones, the absence of masks, certificates, and queues, made us all a bit giddy.

We also witnessed a hair-raising parental incident involving a young boy. He had leaned against a large canvas while his father took his picture. Hearing the alarm go off, a security guard ran hollering through the gallery, demanding that the youngster step away. Father and son looked chagrined; we volunteers were not impressed. Well experienced at keeping toddlers in check vis-à-vis the various protocols of Swiss life, our group were disbelieving. Luckily, it looked as if the painting was undamaged.

After the exhibit, we walked into a local cafe in the lovely town of Riehen.

We discussed the exhibit and some recent critically-acclaimed movies about motherhood while having lunch. Afterwards, we visited a great Mexican food shop selling authentic salsa, tortillas, and other goods. Some of us (not me) used our German skills.

Having stretched our time together, we parted company to head back to our various charges – in my case, not one of them wielding a sippy cup.

Editor’s note:
This article has been edited for the blog’s requirement. The BCT Volunteers visited the exhibition in February 2022. The Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at the Beyeler Fondation runs until 22 May 2022.
Here are a few photos from the outing.
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