Light Irise, 1924 by Georgia O'Keeffe

The overtly sexual symbolism of the lily was exploited by several important modernists, particularly in the decade after World War I. Salvador Dali featured the bloom in The Great Masturbator, a hallucinatory anthology of sexual imagery which initiated a remarkable series of works detailing with unprecedented frankness a staggering array of erotic preoccupations.

Blossoms favored by Georgia O'Keeffe were similarly rich in associations, not simply limited to the interpretations in traditional lexicons of the "language of flowers," and they also reward extended contemplation. Her famous irises were an important preoccupation for many years. In Light Iris, the enlargements and abstractions derived from the flower have often been explained in gynecological terms, almost clinical in their precision. Such explications, once the province of Freud Psychoanalysis, have more been repeated in feminist interpretations of the flower.