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Georgia O’Keeffe’s Affection for Things: Thoughts on "Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses"

Sarah Carrig Bond

Georgia O’Keeffe was an artist who loved “things”—who explored them, magnified them, and captured their essence in her paintings. For her, things had a resonance both universal and personal. Her 1931 painting Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses at the Art Institute of Chicago provides rich food for thought on the ways things convey meaning in painting.

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Things to Focus On

Issue Two / 2022

A thing…is inseparable from is context, namely, its world, and from our commerce with the thing and its world, namely engagement. The experience of a thing is always and also a bodily and social engagement with the thing's world. In calling forth a manifold engagement, a thing necessarily provides more than one commodity. Thus a stove used to furnish more than mere warmth. It was a focus, a hearth, a place that gathers the work and leisure of a family and gave the house a center.

—Albert Borgmann, Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life

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Humanum is about the human: what makes us human, what keeps us human, and what does not. We are driven by the central questions of human existence: nature, freedom, sexual difference and the fundamental figures to which it gives rise, man, woman, and child. We probe these in the context of marriage, family, education, work, medicine and bioethics, science and technology, political and ecclesial life. We sift through the many competing ideas of our age so that we might “hold fast to what is good” and let go of what is not. In addition to articles, witness pieces, and book reviews ArteFact: Film & Fiction searches out the human in the literary and cinematic arts.

Humanum is published as a free service by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Washington, D.C.