Me and Georgia O’Keeffe

I have written several blog articles during the last few weeks that I never published here, I think mostly because I didn’t take the time to polish them while we were traveling. But in my head I know that I wrote them, so there’s a disconnect for me between what I’ve actually published here and what I THINK I’ve published. One of those essays is about our visit to Georgia O’Keeffe’s Ghost Ranch, and I do want to share this with you, dear readers, even though it’s long overdue.

Pedernal, as seen from Ghost Ranch

On the last day of our stay in Santa Fe, my husband and I drove out to the Ghost Ranch, some 70 miles to the north. We were able to join a “Landscape Tour” of the property (now owned by the Presbyterian Church), piling into a small bus with a very knowledgeable volunteer and a dozen other visitors, to see parts of Georgia’s country — places where she actually walked, seeing the very cliffs she painted, and seeing her mountain, Pedernal. She said of Pedernal: “It’s my private mountain . . . God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it.” (Quoted from “Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tours,” http://www.ghostranch.org/museums-and-activities/o’keeffe-tours)

It was about 1970 at the Museum of Modern Art when I first saw her work (thanks to my sister for that amazing visit to New York), and it was love at first sight. I knew then that I wanted to take photographs that would reveal the deepest parts of my subjects, through close ups and specific focus points. Is it strange to form a connection between a painter and a photographer? I don’t think so – it was a seamless leap for me as I realized, oh so many years ago, that a photograph can be just as artistically well designed and well crafted as a painting. I’ve been working at it ever since. With digital technology at my fingertips now, it’s way more fun and way more creative than it used to be. I do also love to paint, but I am a much better photographer than I am a painter. Perhaps that’s a choice I’ve made somewhere along the way.

The Cliff Chimneys look different today due to some landslides, but you can still see her perspective.

Going on the Ghost Ranch tour, for me, was something magical – and I left with hundreds of new photos as well as a strong desire to pick up a paintbrush and figure out how I can take what I know about O’Keeffe’s amazing abstract art and make it my own. I don’t want to imitate her work, but the simplicity and depth of her paintings touch me in a way that makes me want to create art that conveys a similar love of the subject. I’ll be working on that for awhile, I think.

We have been “back” in South Dakota for several days as I update this article. Visiting my family here has been, as always, a joy. Yesterday morning my daughter-in-law asked me to give the girls a lesson in using the watercolor paints I bought for them earlier in the summer, and we had such a delightful time, laughing and painting. None of us wanted to stop when it was time for lunch, but we had to, and have planned to continue painting upon my next visit sometime later in the winter.

Tonight, I read a book to the kids that they had checked out of the library just this morning: Georgia Rises: A Day in the Life of Georgia O’Keeffe by Kathryn Lasky. Of course I was thrilled at the chance, and it was fun to add more information about O’Keeffe than the book revealed. My seven year old granddaughter was enthralled and wanted to know more. I turned to my computer and brought up a YouTube video interview with O’Keeffe which I think truly made it real for her. At one point where the interview gets a little dry I asked her if she had seen enough, and she emphatically said, “No!” She watched the whole thing, and then we looked at images of O’Keeffe paintings, (this link will take you to the painting of the Cliff Chimneys that I photographed, above) and she loved it all.

What greater gift can there be between granddaughter and grandmother than for that passion to be passed along?

Life is good.

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5 thoughts on “Me and Georgia O’Keeffe

  1. When my wife and I visited Ghost Ranch a few years ago, we hiked up to Cliff Chimneys. Though it was mid-February, the weather was great! We were able to dress in shorts. Ghost Ranch is a beautiful place — did you know that the ranch offers seminars on a number of subjects? Bill

    • Bill — I did know they do seminars — I’ve pored over the listings and would like to take a bunch of them! What an amazing and beautiful place. We didn’t know before we got there that their campground is open for anyone; I had originally thought that you had to be taking one of their workshops in order to stay there. If we get a chance to go again, we’ll stay right there. Interesting about the warm winter weather — I wonder if it’s like that often . . . it doesn’t get terribly hot either. Sounds like the perfect place to me!

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