Georgia O’Keeffe’s last name was misspelled on a concourse-level wall in the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) new Grand Central Madison station. The second “f” in the artist’s last name was omitted from the attribution line for her quote “One can’t paint New York as it is, but rather as it is felt,” which is included in a hallway displaying adages from New York City icons. (A sentence from Toni Morrison’s novel Jazz, whose setting is in Harlem, New York City, is in the same hallway as well as a lyric from the song “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys.)
“We clearly f-ed this one up and it’s being fixed,” communications director for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Tim Minton told Bloomberg, which first reported the gaffe. The MTA has not yet responded to a request for comment. As of today, February 1, when Hyperallergic visited the site, the artist’s name had been removed entirely from the wall.
Unveiled to the public on Wednesday, January 25, the wall was part of the opening of the highly anticipated LIRR station in Manhattan’s Midtown East that sits below Grand Central Terminal. The $11.1 billion project was set to launch in December 2022 but the opening was postponed until this year. MTA, the state agency that oversees New York City’s subway system, buses, and two commuter rail lines, is offering limited service, beginning with a shuttle between the Jamaica stop in Queens and Grand Central Madison. Full service out of Grand Central Madison is expected to begin in the coming weeks, according to the MTA.
O’Keeffe’s quote refers to her series of New York City skyscrapers in the 1920s. The paintings, such as “New York with Moon” (1925), illustrate cityscapes from low vantage points, creating the illusion that the buildings tower over the viewer. These works earned the painter her first retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 1927.
Starting in 1918, O’Keeffe lived in NYC before moving to Sante Fe, New Mexico, in 1929. She made her artistic debut in 1917 at The Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession in Midtown Manhattan with a series of charcoal drawings but decided to make a shift toward abstraction. In the 1930s, O’Keeffe would gain prominence for her paintings representing close-ups of flowers and their anatomy, works that are often compared to vulvar forms despite the artist’s own rejection of this interpretation.
As embarrassing as the MTA’s faux-pas may be, it’s far from the first time O’Keeffe’s last name has been misspelled. In the biography Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O’Keeffe, author Hunter Drohojowska-Philp writes that a majority of reviews for the artist’s winter 1923 show had incorrectly spelled her name as “O’Keefe.”
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