Because March is National Women’s History Month, let’s look at two books about famous women artists: Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo. Both are in the “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series by Mike Venezia.
Georgia O’Keeffe starts with a breathtaking portrait of a young Georgia by her husband, the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. The next few pages show some of her paintings with just a few lines of explanation. Following is a cartoon about how this famous artist ate dirt as a child. What person, young or old, can’t relate to that with a grin? Venezia makes a point to explain early influences in Georgia’s life and how she studied to become an artist. He also emphasizes her interest in nature and use of bright colors.
Frida Kahlo is another vibrant female artist who used bright colors, but her life was very different from Georgia O’Keeffe’s. Frida was ill as a child and then the victim of a severe bus accident. She was in pain and had serious health problems throughout her life. Frida is known for her intense, riveting self-portraits. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida had a famous husband, the artist Diego Rivera.
Although I highly recommend these books, I do have one small note of caution. Because they contain paintings by adult artists, a few of the images may be unsettling. In Georgia O’Keeffe, one of her paintings shows a dead rabbit, and the author chose Paul Cezanne’s “The Large Bathers” as an example of an artwork that influenced O’Keeffe. I never thought much about nudity in art until I found a piece of construction paper taped over a nude in one of Venezia’s other books at the library, which is why I mention it. In Frida Kahlo there is a graphic painting of her illness where food is pouring out of her mouth that could be disturbing. The artwork by other Mexican artists consists of scenes of war.
On the other hand, the art can be exquisitely beautiful as well, and shouldn’t be missed. Georgia O’Keeffe’s giant flowers are soft and entrancing. Frida Kahlo is a petite woman with a huge presence in her paintings.
As an art masterpiece volunteer for five years, I learned to treasure Mike Venezia’s books. He gives clear and informative discussions of the artist’s life illustrated with a good number of well-chosen examples of their work. The format is always similar in a comfortable way, with humorous cartoons to add instant kid appeal. The books are slim 8 x 9 ½-inch paperbacks that are easy to hold and carry. The best part is the books can be used with children of a wide range of ages and levels of art experience.
If you want to expose children to artists and art history, you should consider these books.
Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia
Frida Kahlo (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia