Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Biltmore Estate Takes Visitors Back in Time.

The Biltmore Estate


Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. This week, Rich Kleinfeldt and Shirley Griffith are your guides as we take you to the Biltmore Estate. This huge home was built more than a century ago near the mountains of North Carolina.


An estate is a property, usually large, owned by one person or a family. The man who owned the Biltmore estate in North Carolina was George Vanderbilt. He was born in eighteen sixty-two and died in nineteen fourteen. His father and grandfather were two of the richest and most powerful businessmen in America. They made their money in shipping and railroads.

When his father died, George Vanderbilt received millions of dollars. He chose to spend a good deal of that money building his home in North Carolina. More than one thousand people began the work on it in eighteen eighty-nine. The structure was ready six years later in December eighteen ninety-five. Biltmore is now open to the public. It is well worth a visit. So, close your eyes and imagine you are going there.



Our car has just turned off one of the main roads in the city of Asheville, North Carolina. We have entered a private road that leads to the main house on the Biltmore Estate. The sides of the road are lined with trees.

When we leave the car, we walk through a wooded area. The air is clean. The trees are dark and very large. They block us from seeing anything. At last we come to an open area and turn to the right. The main house is several hundred meters in front of us.


Biltmore is huge. It looks like a king's palace. It measures two hundred thirty-eight meters from side to side. It is the color of milk, with maybe just a little chocolate added to make it light brown. As we walk closer, it seems to grow bigger and bigger. It has hundreds of windows. Strange stone creatures look down from the top. They seem to be guarding the house.

Two big stone lions guard the front door. Biltmore really has two front doors. The first is made of glass and black iron.

We pass through it to a second door. This one is made of rich dark wood. Both doors are several meters high. The opening is big enough for perhaps six people to walk through, side-by-side.


A book has been written about the Biltmore estate. It includes many pictures of the house, other buildings, gardens and the Vanderbilt family. The book says the house has two hundred fifty rooms. We cannot see and count them all. Only sixty-five are open to the public.

One room that can be seen looks like a garden. It is alive with flowers. In the center is a statue with water running from it. When we look up, we see the sky through hundreds of windows. Eight big lights hang from the top.

Then we come to a room in which dinner can be served to many guests. The table is large enough for more than sixty people. The top of this room is more than twenty-one meters high. The walls are covered with cloth pictures, flags, and the heads of wild animals.


Each room at Biltmore is more beautiful than the last. Many include paintings by famous artists, like French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir and American artist John Singer Sargent. The chairs, beds, and other furniture were made by artists who worked in wood, leather, glass, marble and cloth.

One room was designed for reading. It contains more than twenty three thousand books in eight languages. Stairs on the side of the room permit visitors to reach books that are kept near the top. The paintings in this reading room are beautiful, too.


Later, we visit rooms below ground level. The people who worked for the Vanderbilt family lived in this lower part.

The Vanderbilts employed about eighty people to take care of the house. This included cooks, bakers, and house cleaners. Other workers took care of the many horses the Vanderbilts owned. Many of these workers lived in the main house, but some lived in the nearby town.

One of the biggest rooms below ground level is the kitchen. And there are separate rooms for keeping food fresh and cold, and for washing the Vanderbilt's clothes.

Past these rooms we find an indoor swimming pool. This area has several separate small rooms where guests could change into swimming clothes.


We finally come back to the front door of the house. Yet there is still much to see at the Biltmore estate.

To the left of the front door, about fifty meters away, is where the Vanderbilt family kept its horses. It is no longer used for horses, however. It now has several small stores that sell gifts to visitors. Visitors can also enjoy a meal or buy cold drinks and ice cream.


In addition to seeing the main house at Biltmore, you can walk through the gardens. Hundreds of different flowers grow there. A big stone and glass building holds young plants before they are placed in the ground outside. Past the gardens is the dark, green forest. Trees seem to grow everywhere. The place seems wild. At the same time, there is a feeling of calm order.

There was once a dairy farm on the Biltmore estate. It is gone now. The milk cows were sold. Some of the land was planted with grapes. And the cow barn was turned into a building for making wine.


As we continue to walk, we come to an unusual house in the forest. The road on which we are walking passes through the house. The house was used many years ago by the gate keeper. Visitors traveled from this gate house to the main house. The distance between the two is almost five kilometers. The trees surrounding Biltmore look like a natural forest.

Yet all of the area was planned, built, and planted by the men who designed the estate. None of it is natural.

Now you may have begun to wonder about the history of Biltmore. Who designed it? How did they plan it? How and why was it built?



The Biltmore estate was the idea of George Vanderbilt. The buildings were designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Mr. Hunt was one of the most famous building designers of his day. He designed and helped build several other big homes in the United States. Several of them were for other members of the Vanderbilt family. Mr. Hunt also designed the base of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.


Another famous man of the time designed the gardens at Biltmore. He was Frederick Law Olmsted. He is most famous for designing central park in New York City and the grounds around the capitol building in Washington, D.C. One of Mr. Olmsted's first projects at Biltmore was to plant and grow the millions of flowers that would be used for the gardens there.


Another man named Gifford Pinchot was also part of the team that designed Biltmore. While there, he started the first scientifically managed forest in the United States. He cut diseased or dead trees and planted new ones. He improved the growth of many kinds of trees. It is because of his work that the wild forest at Biltmore has an ordered and peaceful look.

Gifford Pinchot left Biltmore to start the school of forestry at Yale University. Later he helped to establish the United States Forest Service.

Biltmore is surrounded by more than one thousand eight hundred hectares of forest. The forest provides a wood crop that helps pay the costs of operating the estate. It was the work begun by Gifford Pinchot that makes this possible.



Today, Biltmore belongs to the grandchildren of George Vanderbilt. However, it is no longer used as a private home.

Many years ago, the family decided to open it to the public. Visitors help pay the cost of caring for and operating it.

Biltmore employs more than six-hundred-fifty people who work in the house and gardens.

The family says George Vanderbilt liked to have guests at Biltmore. They say he enjoyed showing it to others. Now, each year, about seven hundred fifty thousand people visit the Vanderbilt home in Asheville, North Carolina. The family says their grandfather would have liked that.



Our program was written by Paul Thompson and read by Rich Kleinfeldt and Shirley Griffith. I'm Faith Lapidus. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education

"The Thinker" by Auguste Rodin

On the Purpose of a Liberal Arts Education


Robert Harris

When they first arrive at college, many students are surprised at the general education classes they must take in order to graduate. They wonder why someone who wants to be an accountant or psychologist or television producer should study subjects that have nothing directly to do with those fields. And that is a reasonable question--Why should you study history, literature, philosophy, music, art, or any other subject outside of your major? Why should you study any subject that does not help to train you for a job? Why should you study computer programming when you will never write a program? Why study logic when all you want to do is teach first grade or be a church organist?

In answer to this question, let's look at some of the benefits a liberal arts education and its accompanying widespread knowledge will give you.

I. A liberal arts education teaches you how to think.

1. You will develop strength of mind and an ordered intellect. The mind is like a muscle; exercise makes it stronger and more able to grasp ideas and do intellectual work. Exercising the mind in one area--whether literature or sociology or accounting--will strengthen it for learning in other areas as well. What at first was so difficult--the habits of attention and concentration, the ability to follow arguments, and the ability to distinguish the important from the trivial and to grasp new concepts--all these become easier as the mind is exercised and enlarged by varied study.

You will also learn that thinking has its own grammar, its own orderly structure and set of rules for good use. Many subjects help the student to develop an ordered mind, and each subject contributes in a slightly different way. A careful study of computer programming or mathematics or music or logic or good poetry--or all of these--will demonstrate the structure of thought and knowledge and intellectual movement, and will create the habit of organized thinking and of rational analysis. Once you develop good thinking habits, you will be able to perform better in any job, but more importantly, the happier your life will be. After your class in programming or poetry you may never write another line of code or verse, but you will be a better husband or wife or or businessman or psychologist, because you will take with you the knowledge of organized solutions, of rational sequences that can be applied to any endeavor.

2. You will be able to think for yourself. The diverse body of knowledge you will gain from a liberal arts education, together with the tools of examination and analysis that you will learn to use, will enable you to develop your own opinions, attitudes, values, and beliefs, based not upon the authority of parents, peers, or professors, and not upon ignorance, whim, or prejudice, but upon your own worthy apprehension, examination, and evaluation of argument and evidence. You will develop an active engagement with knowledge, and not be just the passive recipient of a hundred boring facts. Your diverse studies will permit you to see the relations between ideas and philosophies and subject areas and to put each in its appropriate position.

Good judgment, like wisdom, depends upon a thoughtful and extensive acquaintance with many areas of study. And good judgment requires the ability to think independently, in the face of pressures, distortions, and overemphasized truths. Advertisers and politicians rely on a half-educated public, on people who know little outside of their own specialty, because such people are easy to deceive with so-called experts, impressive technical or sociological jargon, and an effective set of logical and psychological tricks.

Thus, while a liberal arts education may not teach you how to take out an appendix or sue your neighbor, it will teach you how to think, which is to say, it will teach you how to live. And this benefit alone makes such an education more practical and useful than any job-specific training ever could.

3. The world becomes understandable. A thorough knowledge of a wide range of events, philosophies, procedures, and possibilities makes the phenomena of life appear coherent and understandable. No longer will unexpected or strange things be merely dazzling or confusing. How sad it is to see an uneducated mind or a mind educated in only one discipline completely overwhelmed by a simple phenomenon. How often have we all heard someone say, "I have no idea what this book is talking about" or "I just can't understand why anyone would do such a thing."

A wide ranging education, covering everything from biology to history to human nature, will provide many tools for understanding.

II. A liberal arts education teaches you how to learn.

1. College provides a telescope, not an open and closed book. Your real education at college will not consist merely of acquiring a giant pile of facts while you are here; it will be in the skill of learning itself. No institution however great, no faculty however adept, can teach you in four years everything you need to know either now or in the future. But by teaching you how to learn and how to organize ideas, the liberal arts institution will enable you to understand new material more easily, to learn faster and more thoroughly and permanently.

2. The more you learn, the more you can learn. Knowledge builds upon knowledge. When you learn something, your brain remembers how you learned it and sets up new pathways, and if necessary, new categories, to make future learning faster. The strategies and habits you develop also help you learn more easily.

And just as importantly, good learning habits can be transferred from one subject to another. When a basketball player lifts weights or plays handball in preparation for basketball, no one asks, "What good is weightlifting or handball for a basketball player?" because it is clear that these exercises build the muscles, reflexes, and coordination that can be transferred to basketball--building them perhaps better than endless hours of basketball practice would. The same is true of the mind.

Exercise in various areas builds brainpower for whatever endeavor you plan to pursue.

3. Old knowledge clarifies new knowledge. The general knowledge supplied by a liberal arts education will help you learn new subjects by one of the most common methods of learning--analogy. As George Herbert noted, people are best taught by using something they are familiar with, something they already understand, to explain something new and unfamiliar. The more you know and are familiar with, the more you can know, faster and more easily. Many times the mind will create its own analogies, almost unconsciously, to teach itself about the unfamiliar by means of the familiar. It can be said then, that the liberal arts education creates an improvement of perception and understanding. (This process explains why the freshman year of college is often so difficult--students come with such a poverty of intellectual abilities and knowledge that learning anything is very difficult. After a year of struggle, however, an informational base has been created which makes further learning easier. The brain has come up to speed and has been given something to work with.)

4. General knowledge enhances creativity. Knowledge of many subject areas provides a cross fertilization of ideas, a fullness of mind that produces new ideas and better understanding. Those sudden realizations, those strokes of genius, those solutions seemingly out of nowhere, are really almost always the product of the mind working unconsciously on a problem and using materials stored up through long study and conscious thought. The greater the storehouse of your knowledge, and the wider its range, the more creative you will be. The interactions of diversified knowledge are so subtle and so sophisticated that their results cannot be predicted. When Benjamin Franklin flew a kite into a storm to investigate the properties of electricity, he did not foresee the wonderful inventions that future students of his discoveries would produce--the washing machines, microwave ovens, computers, radar installations, electric blankets, or television sets. Nor did many of the inventors of these devices foresee them while they studied Franklin's work.

"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." --Thomas Edison

"Chance favors the prepared mind." --Proverb

III. A liberal arts education allows you to see things whole.

1. A context for all knowledge. A general education supplies a context for all knowledge and especially for one's chosen area. Every field gives only a partial view of knowledge of things and of man, and, as John Henry Newman has noted, an exclusive or overemphasis on one field of study distorts the understanding of reality. As one armchair philosopher has said, "When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." All knowledge is one, a unified wholeness, and every field of study is but a piece or an angle or a way of partitioning this knowledge. Thus, to see how one's chosen area fits into the whole, to see the context of one's study, a general, liberal education is not merely desirable, but necessary.

2. A map of the universe. A well-rounded education, a study of the whole range of knowledge, produces an intellectual panorama, a map of the universe, which shows the relative disposition of things and ideas. Such a systematic view of reality provides an understanding of hierarchies and relationships--which things are more valuable or important than others, how one thing is dependent on another, and what is associated with or caused by something else. As abstract as this benefit may sound, it is just this orientation that will give you a stable foundation for a sane and orderly life. Many people waste their lives in endless confusion and frustration because they have no context for any event or decision or thought they might encounter.

3. Life itself is a whole, not divided into majors. Most jobs, most endeavors, really require more knowledge than that of one field. We suffer every day from the consequences of not recognizing this fact. The psychologist who would fully understand the variety of mental problems his patients may suffer will need a wide-ranging knowledge if he is to recognize that some problems are biological, some are spiritual, some are the product of environment, and so on. If he never studies biology, theology, or sociology, how will he be able to treat his patients well? Shall he simply write them off as hopelessly neurotic?

The doctor who believes that a knowledge of cell biology and pharmacology and diagnosis will be all-sufficient in his practice will help very few patients unless he also realizes that more than eighty percent of the typical doctor's patients need emotional ministration either in addition to or instead of physical treatment. The doctor who listens, and who is educated enough to understand, will be the successful one. A doctor who has studied history or literature will be a better doctor than one who has instead read a few extra medical books.

The preacher, who would produce effective, understandable, memorable sermons that will reach his flock, will need a thorough knowledge of--yes--English composition and logic, that he might preach in an orderly, clear, rational manner. As writing and thinking skills have declined in recent years, so has the quality of preaching. In fact, you have probably noticed how disorganized, rambling, and consequently boring many young preachers are today--how many uncertain trumpet tones are sounding now. The preacher may be a brilliant theologian, but as long as he believes that the only rule of preaching is, "Talk for twenty minutes, say 'Amen' and sit down," he will continue to be ineffective.

IV. A liberal arts education enhances wisdom and faith
1. General knowledge will plant the seeds of wisdom. It will help you see and feel your defects and to change yourself, to be a better citizen, spouse, human being. Wisdom is seeing life whole--meaning that every realm of knowledge must be consulted to discover a full truth. Knowledge leads to wise action, to the service of God and to an understanding of human nature: "With all your knowledge, get understanding" is the Biblical precept.

John Henry Newman wrote that the pursuit of knowledge will "draw the mind off from things which will harm it," and added that it will renovate man's nature by rescuing him "from that fearful subjection to sense which is his ordinary state." This point--that knowledge will help a person to move from an infatuation with externals and toward worthy considerations--has been often repeated by philosophers for at least three thousand years. And if you consider for a moment the unhappiness caused by our society's slavery to sense and appearance, I think you will agree that a deliverance from that is certainly desirable.

"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." --John 7:24

2. General knowledge is an ally of faith. All truth is God's truth; why should we ignore or depreciate an ally, a part of God's wholeness of revelation? The more you learn about the creation, in astronomy, botany, physics, geology, whatever, the more you will praise the miracles he has performed. How can an uneducated man praise God for the wonders of crystallization or capillary attraction or metamorphosis or quasars or stalactites?

General knowledge provides an active understanding of the Gospel and of how it intertwines with human nature, the desires and needs of the heart, the hunger of the soul, and the questions of the mind. The more you learn about man, from history, psychology, sociology, literature, or wherever, the more you will see the penetrating insights and the exact identifications the Bible contains. Some students have remarked that, yes, they always "believed" the Bible, but they have been surprised by how modern and accurate its portrait of humanity really is.
V. A liberal arts education makes you a better teacher
But, you say, I'm not going to be a teacher. To which I say, yes you are. You may not be a school teacher, but you might be a preacher, journalist, social worker, supervisor, Sunday School teacher, lawyer, or missionary. Each of these roles is essentially that of a teacher. But more than this, you will almost certainly be someone's friend, a husband or wife and probably a parent. As friend, spouse, and parent you will be a teacher, sharing your life's knowledge and understanding with another daily and intimately. In fact, any time two human beings get together and open their mouths, teaching and learning are going on. Attitudes, perceptions, understandings, generalizations, reasons, information--all these are revealed if not discussed. It should be your desire, as it is your duty to God and to man, to make the quality, richness, and truth of your teaching as great as possible.
VI. A liberal arts education will contribute to your happiness
1. A cultivated mind enjoys itself and the arts. The extensive but increasingly neglected culture of western civilization provides endless material for pleasure and improvement, "sweetness and light" as it has been traditionally called (or by Horace, dulce et utile--the sweet and useful). A deep appreciation of painting or sculpture or literature, of symbolism, wit, figurative language, historical allusion, character and personality, the True and the Beautiful, this is open to the mind that can understand and enjoy it.

2. Knowledge makes you smarter and smarter is happier. Recent research has demonstrated that contrary to previous ideas, intelligence can actually increase through study and learning. Educated and intelligent people have, statistically, happier marriages, less loneliness, lower rates of depression and mental illness, and a higher reported degree of satisfaction with life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Dwight H. Terry Lectures on Cosmology and Philosophy : Yale University

The Hubble "Deep Field" Photo of Distant Galaxies

In our Level 7/8 classes, we have taken two TOEFL listening examinations. TOEFL stands for "Test of English as a Foreign Language." It is designed for foreign students who want to attend an American university. Actually, these tests are for advanced English learners. Although not advanced, but high intermediate, our students did very well with the tests indicating a readiness to understand and appreciate lectures given in various subjects at English speaking colleges and universities. This capacity provides a great opportunity for our higher level students to not only improve their English through watching these lectures but also acquire knowledge about the world, and in this case, the universe they inhabit. Through the expanded technology of the internet and the increased willingness of universities to share their lectures with the general public, classes and lectures on a a very high level are being made available to a wider and more diverse audience than ever before. These Terry lectures are challenging, but also very interesting and sometimes visually stunning. Here, then, are these lectures given at Yale University in October, 2009. The presenters are a husband and wife team, Joel R. Primack and Nancy Ellen Abrams. They describe the most recent, very dramatic discoveries in cosmology and how those discoveries are relevant for our lives.

Lecture 2. Stardust Plus Time Equals Us. In this lecture, Joel and Nancy tell how
our visual universe is a very small percentage of the total mass of the universe. Actually, the universe is largely dark matter and dark energy. The lecturers also surprise us by telling us what our true origins are, and how consciousness of our cosmic identity can change our attitudes towards our lives.

Lecture 3: "The Cosmically Pivotal Moment". In this lecture, Nancy and Joel show us that we are in a unique time period in many respects. Since galaxies are moving away from us at such a rapid speed, this is the only time in which we can view so many. But also, we're at a pivotal moment with respect to our planet. We must change how we treat our environment or our world will become increasingly uninhabitable. Global warming is a reality, and we must confront the problem now.

Lecture 4: The Cosmic Society. In their final lecture, Nancy Abrams and Joel Primrack use the solid evidence of recent cosmology to etch a "story" of our origins. It is a convincing story that links all of us on this planet because it outlines our true position in this cosmos, our place in the story. Therefore, this true story of the big bang and the expanding universe provides a universal myth that can form the foundation for a cosmic society to which each and all of us belong.

Fly Through The Universe with Space Music

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Georgia O'Keefe, 1887-1986: Her Paintings Showed Her Love for the American Southwest.

Georgia O'Keefe: Black Iris


I’m Gwen Outen.


And I’m Steve Ember with People in America in VOA Special English. Today we tell about one of the greatest painters of the twentieth century, Georgia O'Keeffe.



America has produced many great painters in the past one hundred years. Georgia O'Keefe is one of the most popular and easily recognized artists. People do not mistake her work for anyone else's. People can immediately identify her paintings of huge, colorful flowers or bones in dream-like deserts.

Georgia O'Keeffe said she did not know how she got the idea to be an artist. But, she said, the idea came early. She remembered announcing when she was twelve years old that she planned to be an artist.


Georgia was born in eighteen eighty-seven, the second of seven children. Her parents were successful farmers in the middle western state of Wisconsin.

Georgia's mother also had cultural interests. She made sure that Georgia and her sisters studied art, in addition to their usual school subjects. By the time Georgia was sixteen, the O'Keeffe family had moved to Williamsburg, Virginia.

After Georgia finished school, she attended the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. Georgia was especially pleased with the help she got from her teacher, John Vanderpoel. She later wrote that John Vanderpoel was one of the few real teachers she knew.


In nineteen-oh-seven, O’Keeffe began a year at the Art Students League in New York City. The famous painter William Merritt Chase was one of her teachers. Chase had a great influence on O'Keeffe's early artistic development. She described him as fresh, full of energy and fierce. She seemed to understand and agree with his style of painting.

Then, in nineteen-oh-eight, Georgia O'Keeffe left the world of fine art. She moved back to Chicago and worked in the advertising business. She drew pictures of products to be sold. Her parents had been struggling financially for some time in Virginia. Later, her mother became sick with tuberculosis. Some art historians suspect these were the main reasons Georgia O’Keeffe spent four years in business instead of continuing her studies.



In nineteen twelve, O'Keeffe returned to art school at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Artist and teacher Arthur Wesley Dow taught that art should fill space in a beautiful way. This theory influenced and changed her work. O’Keefe also learned about the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky. He wanted artists to represent the inner spirit in outer things. O'Keeffe considered Kandinsky's writings a treasure. She read them throughout her life.


In nineteen fifteen, Georgia O'Keeffe decided that much of what she had been taught in art school was of little value. She decided to hang recent work she had done on the wall of her home. She examined it and did not find herself in the art. She wrote that she had been taught to work like others. She decided then that she would not spend her life doing what had already been done.

Georgia O'Keeffe began to search for her own style. She used only charcoal, the black material made from burned wood. In her book about her life, she wrote that she decided to limit herself to charcoal until she found she really needed color to do what she needed to do. She wrote that six months later she found she needed the color blue. She used it for a watercolor painting she called "Blue Lines."


Georgia O'Keeffe had met the famous art critic and photographer Alfred Stieglitz at his New York City gallery in nineteen-oh-eight. Their friendship grew as they wrote letters to each other. In nineteen fifteen, O'Keeffe told a friend that she wanted her art to please Alfred Stieglitz more than anyone else.

That friend showed O'Keeffe’s charcoal drawings to Stieglitz. Stieglitz liked her drawings enough to show them in his art gallery, called Two Ninety One.


Alfred Stieglitz was a major force behind shows of Georgia O'Keeffe's work for the next twenty-five years. Her first individual show at his gallery was well received. She sold her first piece at that show in nineteen seventeen.

Stieglitz became O'Keeffe's strongest supporter. Seven years later he became her husband. He was twenty-four years older than his new wife.

The relationship between Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz was not an easy one. O’Keeffe once said that to her “he was much more wonderful in his work than as a human being.” But, she also said she loved him for what seemed “clear and bright and wonderful.” The two remained married until his death in nineteen forty-six.



Georgia O'Keeffe also had a long love relationship with the southwestern part of the United States. The desert environment was the subject of many of her paintings. O'Keeffe had moved to the state of Texas when she was twenty-five. She accepted a two-year position as supervisor of art in the public schools of Amarillo, Texas.

Later, she taught in a small town. She wrote about long walks on narrow paths in a canyon near that town. The dangerous climbs in and out of the canyon were like nothing she had known before. She wrote that many paintings came from experiences like that.

In one such painting, the canyon is shown as a huge deep hole of many colors -- reds, oranges and yellows. It looks as if it is on fire. The canyon fills most of the picture. A small area of blue sky in the distance lends additional depth to the picture.


In nineteen thirty, Georgia O'Keeffe began spending most of her summers in the state

"Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue" 1931

of New Mexico. She called it “the faraway.” She painted big pictures of desert flowers and the high rocky hills. She also began to paint pictures of the bones she found during walks near her summer home. Most of her paintings share the qualities of largeness of subject and richness of color.

The artist discussed those two qualities in her book, called “Georgia O’Keefe.” She wrote that color is more exact in meaning than words. Later, she wrote that she found she could say things with color and shape that she could not express in words.

She also spoke of a special need to paint her subjects larger than they are in life. She seemed to want to force people to see more deeply into objects such as flowers. She tried to show the different shapes and colors within a single flower. The artist said she would make even busy New Yorkers take time to see what she saw in flowers.


"Jimson Weed" 1932

O'Keefe was angered by some criticism of her work over the years. She rejected critics' claims that there was deep sexual meaning in her paintings of flowers. She said that people linked their own experience of a flower to her paintings. She suggested that critics wrote about her flower paintings as if they knew what she was seeing and thinking. But, she said, they did not know.

Georgia O'Keeffe always argued that what others think of the artist's work is not important. She once wrote to a friend, "... I'll do as I please."


Georgia O’Keeffe bought her first house in New Mexico in nineteen forty. After Alfred Stieglitz died, she moved to “the faraway’” permanently. She lived in New Mexico for the rest of her life.

In the early nineteen seventies, O’Keeffe began losing her sight because of an eye disease. She stopped working with oil paints, but continued to produce watercolor paintings.

Around the same time, she met a young artist who would become very important to her. Juan Hamilton made pottery -- objects of clay. He became O’Keeffe’s assistant and friend. They also traveled together. But in the early nineteen eighties Georgia’s O’Keeffe’s health failed severely. She died in nineteen eighty-six. She was ninety-eight.


Georgia O’Keefe received many honors during her long life. President Gerald Ford presented her with the Medal of Freedom in nineteen seventy-seven. Eight years later, President Ronald Reagan awarded her the National Medal of Arts. Students and experts continue to study and write about her work.

Her paintings are shown around the world. And, more than one million people have visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in New Mexico since it opened in nineteen ninety-seven.



This program was written by Caty Weaver. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Gwen Outen.


And I'm Steve Ember. Listen again next week for People In America in VOA Special English.


Youtube and VOA show you the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A slideshow of Georgia O'Keefe's Flower Paintings.