Take yourself out of the museum and into the nearest bar: artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s infamously anatomical paintings have been transformed into cocktails.
Alcohol may have been an infrequent fixture at Georgia O’Keeffe’s ranch outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the austere artist disliked the occasional party. While there are rumors that some guests of O’Keeffe’s were known to drink one too many drinks, nothing has ever been written about the artist’s appetite for cocktails. If only the painter had had access to the twelve concoctions created in honor of the North Carolina Museum of Art’s upcoming exhibition, The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art,maybe we would have seen more flowers and fewer harsh southwestern landscapes.
Created by restaurants and bars across North Carolina known for their mixed drinks, each specialty cocktail is inspired by an artwork from the exhibition — principally O’Keeffe’s “Petunias” (1925), “Jimson Weed” (1936), and Loie Hollowell’s “Yellow Mountains” (2016).
The tasting menu runs through the expected gamut of cocktail-appropriate booze, from gin to tequila, but also adds certain flourishes like a dash of peach puree or a hint of chartreuse. Scandalous! Of particular (personal) interest is Michael Kilbridge’s The Sand Hills cocktail, inspired by O’Keeffe’s “Small Purple Hills” (1934). The Littler bartender has concocted a cherry- and orange-drenched drink reminiscent of the classic blood and sand cocktail.
This is not the first time art has been transformed into an adult beverage. In 2013, artist Ryan Gander solicited cocktail recipes from other creatives for his book, Artists’ Cocktails. The boozy tome also sometimes included personal notes from contributing artists. Martin Boyce on his own carrot-heavy concoction: “Not so much a cocktail, more a drink and an accompanying snack.” And speaking of snacks, SFMOMA once sold pastry chef Caitlin Freemans’ recipe book for creating desserts inspired by artists like Piet Mondrian and Ellsworth Kelly. By comparison, the new O’Keeffe drinks are certainly serving more punch than crunch. These cocktails, aesthetically resonant with the artist’s oeuvre, provide a new spin on paintings that have already become an American classic.