Watched colored hills in distance and saw hills I recognized from Georgia O’Keeffes paintings.
An excitedment (invented word) trembled in me as I turned rig into entrance, beneath entryway
sign reading “Ghost Ranch, welcome”. A cabin on the right just a few hundred feet down the road. I imagine O’Keefe drinking Orange Blossom tea on the porch. Turns out this was a Hollywood prop for the movie City Slickers. It sure looks authentic. They got me on that one!
I make it to the welcome center and find a smooth operating commercialized artist wannabe camp. O’Keeffe has been a heroine of mine since art school when first introduced to her work. I didn’t relate to modern art, but her work bridged realism and modern like nothing I’d seen. I decide to sidestep tours of Ghost Ranch and discover the place on my own terms. Just start walking until someone tells me I can’t go any further without a guide, or a pass, or a ticket. There is an RV campground. The receptionist was snobbily snarky when I enquired about a campsite so I turned the other butt cheek deciding to find another accommodation.
I leashed up dogs and we headed past the Unwelcome Center, towards scenes depicted in famed artists works. Walked past a compound of cabins, meeting halls, tour bus designated area and an art center (complete with etching press). We come to a trailhead.
This may be where official tour starts. I use scenery to guide me along the trail. Being very familiar with her work I recognize at least 5 scenes from her paintings. Day is cloudy. Sun starting to set. Too dark for pics. Thats ok, this 'flying feeling' excitement will be remembered.
Are these hills or mountains? Too small for mountains, too monumental to be hills.
Looming out - colors bouncing. Truly a magic place. O'Keeffe found it with a little help from New York friend, Carol. I admire clarity of her choices. Beauty she saw in this place, she recognized as worthy of immersion. I pass one amazing scene after another. A killer cliff, tree, cloud combo. Inspiration bubbles up so I have trouble holding my camera and dog leashes.
Sometimes I wonder if GOK was lesbian. After a book was published by Alfred Stieglitz with photos of her naked, she was accused of painting sexual eroticism in her work. It became scandalous with her giant flower paintings suggesting female genetalia. Regardless of her intent, she imposed her “filter” on this amazing beauty, simplifying all the unnecessary detail to offer essence, without losing recognition of subject. She did get abstract. To her it was not abstract. She sought to “emphasize the real meaning of things”. One person living her life as she sees fit continues to inspire hundreds from all around the world, coming here to Ghost Ranch for a jolt of real meaning. People want to know about her personal life. Many books written about her, how she broke the glass ceiling for women artists. Now I’m walking where she worked for decades and am thrilled.
She had two studios, one here at Ghost Ranch and one in Abiquiu at residence.
I decide to do home/studio tour for $35. Santa Fe Museum maintains property and conducts operations at Ghost Ranch and her home. Museum has a live camera fixed on her garden, where you can watch the garden in Santa Fe as it is maintained. Tours are full. I’m lucky to get a spot next day. I drive about 16 miles to Abiquiu and spend night with approval in parking lot of the very busy iconic Bode's general store. This store was founded around 1900, long before this highway came through. O’Keeffe must have shopped here.
Her home - AMAZING. An adobe-style rambling sprawl. Many rooms. Old wood trees open ceiling, sparsely decorated, plates, tables and window sills loaded with rocks. She collected smooth rocks and displayed them. I don’t need to be famous, just want to successfully navigate my life for another assumed 20 years. Rustic. Inviting. Great views of surrounding farmlands. A National Historical Place.
Her studio is ample size, not high ceilings. good southern light. No pictures allowed inside.She was happy working by herself. She had a support staff. Not exactly isolated as reputed. She had a staff of three to four people maintaining her home. She must have been respectful but firm. From what I've read, she had a way of getting things done, or perhaps, convincing others to get it done. Juan Hamilton, her 'go to' guy did very well since inheriting some O'Keeffe property. He has two homes now, one in Maui. It's nobodies business what relations they may have had. Having said that, one wonders how she dealt with life's yearnings. How she managed all this is worth studying as model for my own pursuits of happiness.
After enlightening tour I roll to Santa Fe. Stayed night in visitor parking lot at the State Capital Building. Rain, rain, rain. Went to Georgia O’Keeffe Museum next day. Anticipating a knock out show. Just so-so. 4-5 of her masterpieces on display. Would’ve loved to see more watercolors and drawings. Still, loved being amongst her visions. Went to the Santa Fe Gallery where there was a Georgia O’Keeffe show called Process. A show about the artists process. Only three or so images displayed went into her process. Oh well! Well done hype. A lesson in marketing. I read nearly every placard hoping for a bit of something I didn’t know. What occurs from all this O’Keeffe legend worship; she’s become a brand. A cash cow. Artists like myself, feminists, and students flocking to touch sacred ground of Ghost Ranch. Nonetheless, I can check Ghost Ranch off my bucket list.
Santa Fe style is all about the Pueblo native people. Adobe-style everywhere.
I doubt if walls are really made from stone and mud. Probably modern constructions materials. So why does so much look Pueblo influenced? Seems Santa Fe’s kinda stuck in an architectural rut.
The rain is slamming down. Not just an hour. The whole day. And it’s cold. Getting below 40F. I pack things up and head down Hwy 25 to Albuquerque, hoping for sunshine.