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Giuseppe Arcimboldo Paints a Portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe

Arcimboldo was a 16th-century Milanese painter who used elements of flora - vegetables, fruits, seeds, husks - to form the portraits of his subjects Desert light shoots off the edges of her skin. She is an angular lady, her torso the gray and burnt sienna of dried New Mexico cedar. For her arms I use shadows of Penitente crosses. They fuse and ignite: dawn coming on the plains. I fold her breasts in satin petals of trumpet flowers. With somber clouds, deer spines, I float her backbone, hips. Pearly legs of white birch wash into her feet: cadmium leaves. The white rose I paint shimmers silver on her belly. I ripple a shawl into sandstone ridges, terra cotta and lime. For her lovely neck, I stroke dark green corn leaves, long shafts of ultramarine. Undulations of gold and fuschia form an abalone chin. With the pucker of closed clam shells I hollow her cheeks. I will surprise her with calla lily ears, the sensual vibrations of yellow stamens. Because her face is strong, arrogant, I paint the cow skull in flat white. For her nose, I splash a fine black iris, violet nostrils, an opalescent bridge. The bloom of wine-red hollyhocks fills eye sockets. I brush a light green star into each pupil. Over these star-flowers thunderbolts zigzag into eyebrows. Her lips open wings of a large black bird. For her hair, can Jack-in-the-pulpits be enough, streaks of purple and frail blue, fists of sunlight bullying faded silk?

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