I’ve always loved Georgia O’Keeffe. From an early age, I can remember her crystalline colors, haunting compositions and sensual lines. There was always something in her paintings that I could relate to – a depth, or expression of something real that I felt but was not able to express on my own. Most of all, I believed that she was a visionary with her own aesthetic and the moxie to be herself. Her example helps me to navigate what it means to be an artist.
Traveling to this physical and spiritual home of hers was something I had been wanting to do for years. Even the names associated with it are magic – Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Going through Abiquiu on 84, the mountains began to have color. Lots of color. Colors I had only seen before in O’Keeffe paintings. Those paintings, where I thought she had been interpreting the essence of the hills through her electric colors, were deeply realistic. Lipstick reds, golds, pinks and yellows streaked through geologic strata as I had never seen – contrasting with the big blue sky and fleecy white clouds. Spending time at the Ghost Ranch immersed in this landscape, I began to more fully understand her work in ways I could not before. It was especially meaningful for me as a landscape designer – to viscerally experience landscapes that I had only seen in museum settings.
I had experienced a similar feeling in Provence, when I saw Mt. St. Victoire, and when I stayed in Arles, where Van Gogh had painted and lived. The landscape, the light, the food, the people all made the paintings richer, more nuanced and soulful and brought me to a more profound simpatico with the work. Being at the Ghost Ranch, it was easy for me to see how Georgia O’Keefe wanted “real things, music that makes holes in the sky.”