O'Keeffe at Abiquiu
Georgia O'Keeffe, the most famous woman artist of twentieth-century America, spent the last forty years of her life in quiet isolation in New Mexico, living in an adobe house that she had built on an old property in the village of Abiquiu (pronounced Abbey-cue). Anyone who knows New Mexico, with its fierce light, pungent aroma of sage, and big, open skies, will understand its fascination for O'Keeffe. The landscape is direct and elemental, like her paintings; it is tough and unyielding, like her character. In 1979, some seven years before her death, O'Keeffe permitted Colorado photographer Myron Wood to photograph at Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Over the next two-and-a-half years, Wood made hundreds of photographs, of the artist herself, the people closest to her (Juan Hamilton, her manager; gardener Steven Lopez, and others), and most especially of the house, gardens, and surrounding landscape that nourished O'Keeffe so richly. Reproduced here are seventy-nine of Wood's photographs, in subtle tones ranging from stark white to dense black. They do more than merely document the look of the house, they evoke the spirit of the place as O'Keeffe inhabited it. Here are the smooth shapes of the sun-bleached animal bones and river-rounded rocks that the painter loved to collect; here are the hand-rubbed adobe walls of a building that seems to grow out organically from the earth. Matching the photographs in information as well as in the conveyance of the mood and feeling of O'Keeffe's Abiquiu is Christine Taylor Patten's essay. Patten worked for the painter as a nurse companion close to the end of her life, and grew to see the house and the desert through O'Keeffe's failing eyes. In two parts, heressay provides considerable information, but also attempts to evoke the high desert atmosphere as Georgia O'Keeffe herself experienced it. Together, words and pictures paint a rare portrait of the precious domain of a remarkable, sensitive, and demanding woman.
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