Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Birthday .....

Yesterday, a man who created a distinctive American sound for music. Today, a woman who created distinctive American images for painting. Georgia Totto O'Keeffe, who emerged as a major figure in American art in the 1920s - and remains so today, twenty years after her death - was born on this day in 1887.

She is chiefly known for paintings of flowers, skulls and natural landscapes. But she also had an eye for urban subjects, as one of my favrite paintings by her,
Radiator Building, will show. And while she is most closely - and rightfully - identified with New Mexico, she was also at home in New York ... and Texas. Early in the 20th-century, she was an elementary school art teacher near Amarillo, and later an instructor in the art department West Texas A&M University, in Canyon. While there she created many beautiful images of nearby Palo Duro Canyon. During a trip through the Panhandle, My Favorite Landman and I spent the night in Canyon at the Husdspeth Inn Bed & Breakfast, a former boarding house where a young Georgia O'Keefe once took her meals.

I saw O'Keefe once, fleetingly, from a distance, as a crew of us were heading through Abique and Ghost Ranch on our way to a dig. I would have liked to meet her sometime, although she had a reputation as a very private person who did not encourage visitors, especially those who would show up, unannounced, at her doorstep.

Here is
Wikipedia's write-up on O'Keefe, and a pretty good, comprehensive online gallery of her paintings. You can also visit, online, the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. And here's an audio/video tour of northern New Mexico in the company of O'Keefe, herself. The quality of the video isn't very good ... but the content is wonderful!

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