Pineapple expressionism: Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams in Hawaii

by James M. Keller February 7, 2014

Crater of Haleakala by Ansel Adams

Crater of Haleakala by Ansel Adams

Asked to name a state particularly associated with the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, most people would point without hesitation to New Mexico, and particularly to the high desert region surrounding her residences at Ghost Ranch and in Abiquiú. The same question about the photographer Ansel Adams would doubtless invite the response of California, thanks to his iconic images of the Yosemite Valley and other expanses of the Sierra Nevada range. But art lovers who look past their most famous images quickly discover that both artists roamed far from their signature locales. They created bodies of work relating to their separate visits to a region considerably more distant than what comes to mind as the American West, oeuvres that are explored in the exhibition opening at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on Friday, Feb. 7: Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams: The Hawaii Pictures.

The exhibition has been assembled by Theresa Papanikolas, curator of European and American art at the Honolulu Museum of Art, where it was on display for six months beginning last July. (The exhibition is accompanied by a catalog of the same title by Papanikolas and published by the museum.) Although the two artists were close friends from their first meeting in Taos, in 1929, until Adams’ death, in 1984, their visits to Hawaii did not overlap. O’Keeffe got there first, spending nine weeks in Hawaii in 1939 at the invitation of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which later evolved into the Dole Food Company. The corporation’s advertising firm, N.W. Ayer and Son, approached O’Keeffe about visiting the islands and painting canvases that might be used in the fruit company’s advertising. read more of this article