O’Keeffe’s wanderings on display
ALBUQUERQUE - Georgia O’Keeffe could handle the inhospitable conditions of the American Southwest, with its intense sun and rugged terrain.
Her clothes tell part of the story - jeans worn at the knees and sneakers scuffed. Her handwritten letters tell even more about the dust, the biting gnats, unpredictable rainstorms and repeated struggles to get to some of New Mexico’s loneliest spots.
The items along with camping gear and snapshots taken by the artist’s friends during some of their outdoor adventures are part of a yearlong exhibition, “Georgia O’Keeffe and The Faraway: Nature and Image,” opening May 11 at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. The show highlights the stretches of high desert she called “the faraway” and the landscape paintings they inspired.
“The unique environment of the Southwest was always a muse for her and it continued to offer her boundless inspiration until the end of her life. But how she did it and how difficult it was is something that we don’t really often talk about,” said Carolyn Kastner, the museum’s associate curator.
The museum’s curators have turned one gallery into a slice of northwestern New Mexico’s badlands with a panoramic photograph of the area that O’Keeffe called the Black Place, where clay hills are colored various shades of black and gray.
The tent O’Keeffe and friend Maria Chabot used during their 1944 camping trip at the Black Place is on display along with their lanterns and cooking equipment. O’Keeffe described it as an “untouched lonely-feeling place” that continually drew her back.
Barbara Buhler Lynes, the museum’s curator and director of the O’Keeffe Research Center, said the artist was able to develop a personal relationship with the Southwest through her camping and rafting trips. It was through those experiences O’Keeffe also realized her independent spirit and sense of adventure, Lynes said.
While the artwork on the gallery’s walls can be mistaken for none other than O’Keeffe’s, visitors can expect some surprises, Kastner said. Among them are a couple of paintings, photographs and other documentation related to a 10-day raft trip O’Keeffe took down the Colorado River through Glen Canyon when she was 74.