Monday, August 25, 2014

Georgia on My Mind: "Enchanted" in O'Keeffe Country

San Francisco de Asis Mission Church, Ranchos de Taos, NM, 1772-1816
Photo: Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, August 17, 2014

It would be art historian-ly to say that I visited New Mexico this summer in search of the genuine light that inspired Georgia O'Keeffe's sun-bleached paintings.   For this is "O'Keeffe Country" (intoned the narrator in one video at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe).    But that would be a lie.   

Beth S. Gersh-Nesic,  Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque, NM, at Sunset, August 16, 2014

I longed to see the Sandia Mountains that were magically featured in the television series Breaking Bad.  It wasn't Georgia that got me to Albuquerque, but Walter White (or more accurately Sony Pictures that insisted Vince Gilligan set his story in NM, because the state offered a 25% discount as incentive - YO, NEW MEXICO!)

Left: Georgia O'Keeffe, Ranchos Church, No. 1, 1929, oil on canvas, 18 3/4 x 24 inches, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL, copyright: Georgia O'Keeffe Museum.    Right: Ansel Adams, Saint Francis Church, Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, c. 1929, silver gelatin print, 13 5/16 x 17 5/16 inches, Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, copyright: The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust

Nevertheless, the prospect of viewing Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings lured us to Santa Fe from our hotel in Albuquerque, and indeed we were enchanted with the collection and kindness we encountered at her eponymous museum.

Georgia O'Keeffe, My Last Door, 1952/54, oil on canvas, 48 x 84 inches, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, Gift of the Burnett Foundation, Photo: Beth S. Gersh-Nesic

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed, 1932, oil on canvas, 40x 48 inches, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NM, Gift of the Burnett Family.  Photo: Beth S. Gersh-Nesic

Update: Video on JimsonWeed, sold at Sotheby's November 20, 2014]

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

The next day we headed to Taos, about an hour Northeast of Sante Fe, in search of the excellent Harwood Museum, which is part of the University of New Mexico.  Its Gus Foster collection was a revelation!  
Gus Foster Collection, Harwood Museum, University of Mexico, Taos, NM

The Agnes Martin Gallery, 1993, with Donald Judd benches,  Harwood Museum

And the Agnes Martin Gallery of 1993 paintings, which she created upon her return to Taos, felt like a spiritual oasis in its separate alcove and quietude.  The Donald Judd benches were used by Martin herself when she visited the museum.

We savored our time there and then headed for the Taos Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited pueblo village, founded 1000 years ago.

Taos Pueblo, constructed 1000 - 1450, 1 mile north of the city of Taos, NM

Our guide, a member of the Red Willow People who live in the pueblo, provided insights that just roaming through the grounds could not convey.   We were tremendously appreciative of what we learned about the history of Native Americans - this was the most enduring aspect of our trip to New Mexico.

Albuquerque Museum of History and Art. Photo: Beth S. Gersh-Nesic

And then - alas - our time in NM ran out.  We were not able to go to Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch. Perhaps, next time in "The Land of Enchantment."

Beth New York
aka Beth S. Gersh-Nesic, Ph.D.
New York Arts Exchange 

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