O’Keefe Country

Back in May, I highlighted quotes from Georgia O’Keefe, the first American female painter to achieve national recognition. I’ve long been a fan of O’Keefe’s work, probably because my mother, a painter herself, introduced me to O’Keefe’s color-filled renditions of flowers and landscapes when I was growing up.

This summer, I had a chance to visit the vistas that inspired O’Keefe, and I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since! In July, we traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico, home of the Georgia O’Keefe museum. The museum houses some of O’Keefe’s most famous works, and also artifacts from her life. There, you can read letters she wrote to her husband Alfred Stieglitz about the beauty of New Mexico and the pull the countryside there had on her. You can also see the camping equipment she used when she wanted to travel off the beaten path to paint different scenery. The museum shows films that describe the struggles O’Keefe had with art critics, and how they wanted to attribute her gorgeous painting of flowers to sexuality, when she just wanted to show the beauty of the flower by magnifying it with paper and paints. Critics of the O’Keefe museum say that there is not enough of her work represented there. But really, can we ever see enough of her work? Take a peek at some of the works the museum houses HERE.

We also traveled away from Santa Fe to the Ghost Ranch, made famous in part by O’Keefe’s long stays there. She fell in love with the place, and spent many years working and painting there. The Ghost Ranch logo, in fact, was designed after a cow skull painting of O’Keefe’s. We were told that the skull pictured above, which hangs from an old adobe home at the Ghost Ranch, was the skull O’Keefe painted… but we’re a little dubious about that.

My children at the Ghost Ranch

The red clay canyons and sky-scraper like formations make the Ghost Ranch a place like no other, and visiting there,  it was easy to see why she found the landscape and the clear blue sky inspiring. Even if you’ve never been to the Ghost Ranch, you’ve probably seen it. Ever watched Cowboys and Aliens or City Slickers? How about Silverado or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull? If you have, you’ve seen the Ghost Ranch. Because it  offers acres and acres of pristine land, it is frequently used by filmmakers.

Today the Ghost Ranch is still used by writers and artists as a retreat for working, but also for teaching. What inspired O’Keefe continues to inspire.

We saw other amazing things on our vacation. But walking in O’Keefe country gave me a greater appreciation for not only the talent of Georgia O’Keefe, but also the extreme sacrifices she made as a woman of her day to leave New York and move to New Mexico for the sake of her art.

View from the Ghost Ranch