Last summer when I was traveling down Highway 395 through Nevada and California, I discovered an excellent exhibit on Georgia O’Keeffe at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno. It encouraged me to visit the places she had lived in New Mexico as one of the focuses of our Southwest trip last fall. Peggy, who likes O’Keeffe’s art as much as I do, readily agreed. In November, before Peggy and I climbed on Amtrak and made our way east to Virginia, I did two posts on Georgia and her time in Taos. In the first (go here), I featured relevant photos I had taken at the exhibit in Reno and then photos that Peggy and I had taken of the Church of St. Francisco of Asis church in Taos, a church that O’Keeffe had painted and her friend Ansel Adams had photographed. In the second (go here), I featured Mable Dodge Luhan, the famous art patron who persuaded Georgia to visit Taos, and the 1000-year-old Taos Pueblo, which O’Keeffe also painted and Adams photographed.
Today, we are going to visit O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico. When she first visited her the place in the mid 30’s, it was an old Spanish-Colonial compound that was basically in ruins. But she fell in love with it, and according to Georgia, a particular door. She had to have it. Acquiring it took ten years, which she did in 1945. It was up to her friend, Maria Chabot, working as the general contractor for four years, to turn it into a home. ”It took six months just to get the pigs out of the house,” Chabot would claim. O’Keeffe lived in the house up until 1984 when ill health forced her to move to Santa Fe where she died in 1986 at the age of 98.
Peggy and I signed up for a tour of the home and studio with Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. It started at the O’Keeffe Welcome Center in Abiquiu and then progressed up to the house. We were allowed to take photos outside but not inside. (I suspect that’s to encourage people to buy the tour instead of just going on-line.) One of the more interesting items inside was a piano that Georgia bought so Ansel Adams could play when he came to visit her. We learned that he had trained as a classical pianist instead of a photographer. The house and surroundings inspired a number of her paintings including the door that had originally attracted her, which she painted some 20 times. Another focus, the cottonwoods growing in the Chama River Valley that her house overlooked, she painted 24 times
NEXT POSTS: On Wednesday it’s time for another photographic essay. This time I will post photos of some quite humorous elephant seals Peggy and I found on the beach near Hearst Castle in Southern California. On Friday, I will conclude my Georgia O’Keeffe series with a trip to Ghost Ranch, about 15 miles north of Abiquiu where Georgia also lived and painted.