Western Trips

Western Trips

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Georgia OKeeffe / New Mexico's Georgia O'Keeffe

The State of  New Mexico has to be one of the more scenic areas in the United States. Santa Fe is considered the oldest settlement in the U.S. dating back to the 1600's when it was established by the Spaniards exploring upthe Rio Grande. St. Francis of Assissi Cathedral, which is a Basilica and located a block east of the  Santa Fe Plaza is over 400 years old. As you are most likely aware, Santa Fe is a great tourist destination not only for Americans but also for people from all over the world. In the summertime, it's mild and dry climate is a refuge from the hot humid conditions found in the U.S. south and midwest and in winter the skiers arrive in large numbers. Santa Fe is home to many fun and cultural events all year long. If you're looking for authentic Indian crafts, Santa Fe ranks among the best. If you find yourself vacationing in Santa Fe or on a road trip to Taos, I have an excellent suggestion for a day trip with a lot of good photo opportunities.

Pictured at left is Georgia O'Keeffe an American artist of much fame who called northern New Mexico home during much of her later life. This picture above is of O'Keeffe in 1915 while a teaching assistant at the University of Virginia. During these years she also taught at Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina.


Briefly, O'Keeffe's early story was that she took up art in pursuit of building an independent career out of it but soon became disillusioned with the chances of becoming successful. This was around 1908 and she simply decided to take a job in Chicago as a commercial artist. Her home was Wisconsin. Several years later O'Keefe again had the idea to strike out in hopes of becoming successful as an independent artist...not really liking the routine of being employed by someone else in the commercial art world. This occurred after she spent time at a University of Virginia summer school and met the artist Arthur Wesley Dow. Dow was considered an innovative artist and Georgia O'Keefe liked his ideas.This was the period where she began her various teaching endeavors.


Shortly thereafter some of O'Keeffe's charcoal drawings ( a 1915 example is shown below right) came to the attention of a few influential New Yorker's who brought her works to the attention of Alfred Stieglitz who was the owner of a New York gallery. Stieglitz asked Georgia to move to New York and continue her art work there. She accepted the invitation and they eventually married after his divorce. Stieglitz was a pioneer photographer and eventually made several hundred photographs of O'Keeffe during their time together, between 1917 and 1937,  and worked setting up many exhibitions of her work throughout the country.


1929 was the year Georgia O'Keeffe started visiting New Mexico spending time in both Santa Fe and Taos. She preferred this climate and geography over her  usual upstate New York summers. O'Keefe found inspiration in the rugged desert surroundings. During her visits she often went on camping trips to important places and landmarks in the southwest. Starting in 1949 O'Keeffe made the northern New Mexico area her permanent home. If you have the chance to visit the Santa Fe/Taos area you will see the natural beauty and colors of the land which would probably inspire most artists. In fact it does and the this area of New Mexico is a mecca for the art world. O'Keeffe was considered by many to be somewhat of a loner and went on her own, unescorted, to explore many isolated areas in northern New Mexico in her Ford Model A. Totally enthralled by the barren desert landscape, O'Keeffe made animal bones the subject of many of her works during the 1930's and 40's. Her animal bones works highlighted the natural beauty of the desert landscape. After Georgia moved to New Mexico is 1949 her art work took on a somewhat different tone with subjects such as adobe walls, skies and other southwestern objects.


O'Keeffe went on to establish herself as a highly popular artist. She also did some commercial work for the Dole company in Hawaii in 1939. She was honored and inducted into several organizations in later life. In 1962 she was elected to the fifty member American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1966 she was elected a Fellow to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. There were several other honors bestowed her in the art world. Georgia O'Keeffe died in 1986 in Santa Fe at the age of 98.


Georgia O'Keeffe spent many years in a tiny town by the name of Abiquiu. It's located about a 45 minutes to a one hour drive north of Santa Fe and in some very picturesque country. Makes a perfect inexpensive scenic day trip during your New Mexico vacation. In Abiquiu you want to stop and see O'Keeffe's house which is up a short winding road right off the main highway. There are guided tours available. You will also want to visit Ghost Ranch which she also spent summers at which is just a short drive north of Abiquiu. I would also suggest you add the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum to your trip planner while in Santa Fe. The museum of course has on display many of O'Keeffe's works and it's a great place to read and learn of the impact Georgia O'Keeffe had on this area of New Mexico. The museum is located just a few blocks northwest of the Santa Fe Plaza and they host many special events during the year. The museum is very popular with out of towners visiting Santa Fe. If you love art then the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum is a must stop.

When you put together your New Mexico trip planner you may also want to include nearby stops at Taos, the home of Kit Carson, as well as Bandelier National Monument just a few miles south of Los Alamos. Also in Los Alamos is the Bradbury Science Museum which is always a hit with people of all ages.

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