The Georgia O’Keefe Museum

Date and Location August 2009 | Santa Fe, New Mexico

Reviewer Patricia Fleming

I recently visited the Georgia O’Keefe Museum in Santa Fe, and I also went to view the Ghost House Ranch, plus her home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico – her homes for 45 years. She lived a long and interesting life (dying at age 98), and visiting where she lived, as well as viewing the largest permanent collection of her work available (over 50 percent of her lifetime output) gave a very complete picture of the woman and her art. I came away with a very full sense of this remarkable artist and the life she led in her beloved New Mexico.

Ms. O’Keefe moved to New Mexico from New York three years after her husband, photographer Alfred Steigleitz died, and it was thrilling to see the real locations of some of her paintings viewed throughout the years. The very recognizable red cliffs and purple hills of The Ghost Ranch area, and her Abiquiu house and studio offered a different take on Ms. O’Keefe as you could "sense” per presence and it wasn’t hard to image her using her handmade viewfinder to create some of her most famous paintings.

The O’Keefe Museum is very impressive. A beautiful Adobe design in the heart of picturesque Santa Fe with more visitors than any other art museum in both Santa Fe and New Mexico, and it is the only museum in the world solely dedicated to a women artists of international stature. It was very informative, and we were able to view a full range of her art – abstractions from the 20’s to elegant investigations of architecture, landscapes, flowers rocks and of course, the ubiquitous bones and who knew O’Keefe was a sorority sister (Kappa Delta Sorority, Chatham Episcopal Institute). Plus it has a gorgeous Café, with delicious food – good enough to rate a mention in ‘Gourmet’ magazine.

Ms. O’Keefe has said she was devoted to creating imagery that expressed - the wideness and wonder of the world as she lived in it -- and the permanent collection, plus the two current shows at the Museum, glorified that expression. The two exhibits currently showing through September, 2009 are: Jimson Weed Returns from the White House and Georgia O’Keefe: Beyond Our Shores.

The Jimson Weed exhibit (Former First Lady Laura Bush has requested the iconic Jimson Weed painting for one of the President’s dining rooms in the White House earlier in the decade and it was recently returned to the O’Keefe museum). We viewed some of the sketches made of that painting, and a glass plate with an image of a Jimson weed that was commissioned by the Steuben Company in the 30’s as one of a special edition of plates engraved with drawings by famous artists.

Beyond Our Shores: O Keefe did not travel outside of the USA until 1951, and you could see how some what she viewed on her travels became subjects of her art and influenced aspects of her development…I loved a recent gift to the Museum, The White Bird of Paradise, 1939 painting, which she completed in Hawaii in 1939 as a guest of the Dole Pineapple company who had commissioned her to make paintings for its advertising campaigns.

A wonderful cultural experience. If you love her art, go visit!

© 2009 Patricia Fleming