Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Walking in "O'Keeffe Country"

"When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it's your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not." - Georgia O'Keeffe

On my recent travels in the northern New Mexico desert, I unexpectedly stumbled into what has become known as "O'Keeffe Country." Taking a pit stop in Albiquiu, New Mexico admist the beauty of Hwy 84 towards Santa Fe, my parents and I accidentally found ourselves at Ghost Ranch, where Georgia O'Keeffe discovered her inspiration, and later called her home, from 1929 to her death in 1986. (IMAGE CREDIT: Georgia O'Keeffe, Evening Star No.VI, 1917)

As I watched the smoke from the Arizona forest fires dance in the rising desert sun and reflect through the primitive landscapes of Kitchen Mesa and Chimney Rock, I can see how O'Keeffe fell in love with the surrounding imagery and found peace from the harried pace of modern life.

Inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe's home and her "country," my parents and I later visited the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. Although I was initially disappointed by the small amount of her paintings on display, on later reflection I realized the subtle and simplistic displays of the exhibitions are a testimony to the great artist. I was fascinated by the biographical movie and current exhibit, "Shared Intelligence: American Painting and the Photograph." The exhibit surveys the relationship of painting and photography in 20th-Century American Modern Art. (IMAGE CREDIT: Leopoldina Photography, Shadows of Ghost Valley, 2011)

As a photographer myself, I was surprised to learn how O'Keeffe (and other contemporary American artists) was so closely connected and influenced by photography. I also didn't realize the significance her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and his movement to consider photography as its own fine art form, affected her art and world views. O'Keeffe was photographed and friends with many of my photog heroes including Todd Webb and Ansel Adams, and yet her struggle with her public image and how it affected the public perception of her art is still a subject of debate amongst art historians today. (IMAGE CREDIT: Todd Webb, Photographing the Chama Valley, New Mexico, 1961)

Overall, I walked away from "O'Keeffe Country" both inspired and curious to learn more about both the artist and the surrounding landscape.

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