In a time when a lot of artists were torn between two schools of thought when it came to how an artist was supposed to support themselves. The purists, including her husband, said that artists should support themselves using their artistic work, while others thought it was acceptable to use commercial enterprises instead. Georgia O’Keeffe was among those lucky enough to be caught in this wave.
In 1939, she got an invite from the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, which later became the Dole Food Company, to visit the islands for artistic collaboration. Easily tempted by the natural fauna of the islands and the pictures in the tourist brochures that she was sent, O'Keeffe's main concern was autonomy in her artistry. Her terms were met and soon enough she was making the rounds on the islands of Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii. Though tempting, for her works she avoided anything with touristic connotations opting instead to look into flowers.
White Bird of Paradise is among the works that came out of this venture. The painting is a flower of a banana-like plant species that grows in tropical areas. The plant locally known as Wild Banana has huge colorful flowers that caught her eye immediately. In her usual revolutionary fashion, Georgia opts for a less traditional botanical painting and instead settles for her unorthodox way of seeing her surroundings. The painting's background is a beautiful color-field made of a palette of whites, reflective pinks, and blues that really complement the white bird of paradise. She decides against realism and foregoes everything else that naturally surrounds the flower in nature, omitting other parts of the plant and choosing to focus primarily on the flower.
This unconventional way of depicting the environment is one of the major features of Georgia O'Keeffe's art. In this painting she magnifies the flower, making it almost unrecognizable to the unkeen eye. Her use of color is pristine, blending the greens and pinks carefully detailing the flower almost as if it is alive. The pieces she did in Hawaii have been described as very distinctive. White Bird of Paradise coupled with another of her paintings, Heliconia, have been singled out as uniquely Hawaiian due to their capability to capture their environments perfectly while still telling Georgia’s story from her own perspective.