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Big Flower in Arkansas

Guest blog by judywhite

Georgia O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed.I was in Bentonville, Arkansas recently, my first time in that state, and the first time in the town where Walmart got its start. It today dominates the landscape, culture and mindset. The drama-comedy film I wrote, "Lies I Told My Little Sister," had been chosen an Official Selection of Geena Davis' inaugural film festival, Bentonville Film Festival (BFF)  and I was invited for the events.

What I did not expect – until I read up on Bentonville before going – was that a world-class museum opened there on 11/11/11. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art was made possible by Alice Walton, daughter of Walmart founder Sam, and it is truly a spectacular building surrounded by spectacular grounds, all free to the public. I was there for the opening party and a lot of BFF panels on women & diversity (the festival's theme), and saw Robert De Niro and Rosie O'Donnell and of course Geena, among other A-list celebs, but managed to miss the museum art itself until I went back later specifically.

I went to see a big flower. In a painting that has always been one of my favorites. The amazing, huge work of iconic art called "Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1" is a 48in x 40in oil on canvas painted in 1932 by my favorite artist, Georgia O'Keeffe. It was purchased by the museum last November, possibly to help put it on the map, because it brought the highest price ever paid for a work of art by a female artist - $44.4 million at Sotheby's for a Datura stramonium.

Deservedly, the Jimson Weed has its own room, on a huge green wall emblazoned with a quote: “I said to myself, I’ll paint what I see, what the flower is to me but I’ll paint it big and they will be surprised into taking time to look at it.” –Georgia O’Keeffe “About Myself,” 1939

Walmart's Bentonville is a surreal setting for a high-class film festival, and a surprising setting for the Jimson Weed. The museum's other acquisitions make for a simple curation arranged by year, usually with only one example of each American artist's work. There are actually three other pieces by O'Keeffe here, all minor, dwarfed literally and figuratively by the white flower on the wall opposite them. And during a film festival dedicated to championing women, despite the presence of such stars as De Niro and Courtney Cox and Nick Cannon and Bruce Dern, it was only the great Georgia O'Keeffe, now the most sought-after female artist in the world, who truly took my breath away.
Georgia O'Keeffe's Jimson Weed display. Image GardenPhotos.com