Tracking Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 1.19.28 PMI've wanted to live in New Mexico since 1997, when I stopped through Taos for a bit on a three-month cross-country trip. I turned 40 last year, and it really hit me just how quickly life moves along. I committed myself then to getting back to this rugged, dry, majestic place. A month ago - after much planning and manifesting - my boyfriend and I trekked from New England to New Mexico for a desert winter. I don't know why this place has beckoned me for so long; I just know we should never ignore a persistent call of the soul.

Last week we drove to Ghost Ranch outside Abiquiu for a hike and to contemplate the late, great Georgia O'Keeffe, who called this place home for many years. It's been said her life changed when she moved to New Mexico from New York. Surely, her relationship to the land seemed more intimate than her relationships with other humans. Of the Pedernal mesa (a famed subject of her work) she remarked, “It’s my private mountain. God told me if I painted it often enough I could have it." It's a nice thought, isn't it, that if we create enough work about a place we love that we'll be able to claim it as our own?

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"The cliffs over there are almost painted for you—you think—until you try to paint them."

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"Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me and as I have come to think of painting it is my efforts to create an equivalent with paint color for the world, life as I see it."

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 1.07.47 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-09 at 1.15.21 PM"I said to myself 'I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me - shadows and ideas so near to me - so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn't occurred to me to put them down.' I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught."

Artists who wish to channel the Mother of Modernism can visit Ghost Ranch to hike or stay overnight. The organization there offers workshops and retreats, as well as horseback rides to places where O'Keeffe painted. More about them here.

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