O'Keeffe Country

Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin. Since I cannot sing, I paint. Georgia O'Keeffe

I don't know when I first fell in love with the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe. It could have been on the many visits to the Chicago Art Institute. We were members of the Institute for several years and would go to the special exhibits at least once a year. But I was always drawn to Miss O'Keeffe's paintings. Especially this one.

Sky Above Clouds IV

This painting is huge and spans the whole wall - about 20 feet. It hangs above a stairway, and I always want to just sit there and stare at it, and just pretend that I'm flying above the clouds.

Georgia is known more for her paintings of flowers. She gets very intimate with the flower and paints with an "in-your-face" attitude. The flowers are large, and have a sensual feel to them, although I had read somewhere that she was upset that people thought that way.

I am currently reading a biography on her life called, "Full Bloom - The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe" by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp. Ms. Hunter writes that Georgia had attended a private school in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin for a couple of years. In addition to her regular classes, she also took an art class. One the first day of art class, Georgia was instructed to draw, using charcoal, her interpretation of the white plaster cast of a baby's hand that sat on the table. Georgia worked hard on her piece, but the nun criticized her work saying it was too small and the lines too black. Georgia blinked back her tears. "I said to myself that I would never have that happen again,"she recalled. "I would never, never draw anything too small." That explains why we see such large close ups of flowers.


Her paintings are vivid and colorful.

White Shell with Red, 1938

Georgia fell in love on her first trip with her sister to New Mexico in 1917. "When I got to New Mexico, that was mine." She didn't return to New Mexico until 1929, and then she returned every summer and spent some time at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. During her time there, she would wander the desert and the hills and get inspiration for her paintings such as:

Cow Skull with Calico Roses, 1931

She moved permanently to New Mexico in 1940.She fell in love with the landscape, the desert, the mountains, the air. She painted the mountain, Pedernal, that she viewed outside of her window several times. It was probably her favorite subject. "It's my private mountain," she frequently said. "It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it." Now tell me, how could you not possibly love someone who thought like that?



Georgia also did many abstract paintings. Sometimes the colors are vibrant, sometimes they are subdued. But the paintings are ALWAYS interesting.

Blue and Green Music, 1921

One of my all time favorites of Georgia O'Keeffe's is this one.

The Lawrence Tree, 1929

She painted this at her friend, D.H. Lawrence's house. I have tried to replicate this several times with my camera - standing underneath a pine tree at night, with stars poking through the branches. It's very hard to do. I've had better luck with the photos during the day, looking up at a tall pine tree, with bits of the sky peeking through the branches.

You may ask yourself why I am giving you an art history lesson here on my blog. Well - here's why. About 8 years ago, I heard about the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, the only art museum dedicated solely to a woman artist in the United States. That really got my attention because a) I love Georgia O'Keeffe, and b) That's quite an accomplishment. I found out the museum was located in Santa Fe, NM. I planned a small vacation all around visiting this museum (this was before we even OWNED a trailer). And my love for New Mexico was born.

Here is the museum from the outside. It's pretty nondescript. But, that's exactly how Georgia O'Keeffe was, too.

This is the third time we have been to Santa Fe, AND the third time we've visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. This has been our best visit by far because it was filled with all her paintings and has a small exhibition of photos taken by her husband, Alfred Stieglitz, and other photographers. The other visits had traveling exhibitions.

We watched two short films about her life. I admire her on so many levels. Her raw talent, the way she looked at life, her feminism, just to name a few.

I stood in front of each painting and wanted to put my hand on them, just to feel something that she touched, to be one with her. My eyes welled up with tears; I was so moved by her talent, the vivid colors just jumping off of the canvas. I could just sit in front of one of her paintings and get lost in it. If I lived in the area, I know I'd become a member of the museum and visit it often!

I'm enjoying reading her biography. It's not a fast read, and I don't want to rush through it. Each night I read 5 or 6 pages, absorb them, learning a little bit more about this woman that I admire.

Georgia O'Keeffe died in 1986 at the grand old age of 98. Her ashes were spread over Pedernal Mountain. She is now one with the mountain that she loved so much, becoming part of the red dirt, her ashes picked up in the breeze that blows across the desert, her spirit free to roam the country that she loved so well.
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