The shell lies still in the shallow water, algae carressing it softly as the gentle waves sweep them back and forth. Looking at this painting, I feel as if I was diving. The water closes around my ears and cancels out all noise. All movement is slowed by the resistance of the water. The cool water embraces and refreshes me. A calmness settles around me.I contemplate the shell. It does not move, steady and tranquil in the waves. The shell is smooth, concentric cirles harmonise with the soft curves of the algae and bring the softly glowing tip into focus. This tip, the umbo, is the oldest part of the shell and with that the strongest.
Indeed sea shells are strong. They withstand storms, waves and strong currents that threaten to rip them from their chosen position and throw them against the rocks. Amazingly, they do not shatter easily, even though their calcium cases appear so fragile to us.
O’Keeffe’s painting introduces two useful traits into the life of the viewer – a contemplative calmness and an unwavering strength. Calmness in the face of the changing tides of our lives, and strength to brave the waves of daily challenges.
Artwork: Georgia O’Keeffe, 1928, Shell No. 2. See more about her and her art here.