Georgia O'Keeffe Trail
View the Southwest through an artist’s eyes
“The colours are different up there,” Georgia O’Keeffe wrote of the Land of Enchantment. Although a Midwesterner, who for years found her inspiration in New York City, she has long been considered New Mexico’s most famous artist. Her first visit to the state came in 1917, and O’Keeffe moved to the little town of Abiquiu permanently in 1949 after the death of her husband, the acclaimed photographer Alfred Stieglitz. Her colourful, almost surreal canvasses portrayed her adopted land in a way no one had done before, and her sensual images—usually instantly recognisable as hers—include animal bones, clouds and, most famously, large-scale flowers.
Despite the O’Keeffe effect, Abiquiu remains a small village in the Old World mould with about 1,000 residents. It lies within a land grant dating back to 1754, one of the last of its kind still owned by residents, many of whom are artists who make Abiquiu a quiet hotbed of the arts. If you’re spending the night, stay at the Abiquiu Inn, with Southwest-themed rooms and private casitas and a fountain in the courtyard. The property also houses the Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, which offers tours of her home and studio.
O’Keeffe divided her time between Abiquiu and nearby Ghost Ranch, whose stark vistas the artist recorded, creating what she called “the wideness and wonder of the world as I live in it”. The ranch is now an education and retreat centre run by the Presbyterian Church. They offer summer seminars on topics ranging from spirituality to science and art, including painting, pottery, birding, and palaeontology. The accommodation is comfortable and basic, with no phones or TVs, but the views cannot be beaten.
Don’t miss Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, the most popular art museum in the state. Its collection of more than 140 O’Keeffe paintings, drawings and sculpture is the world’s largest permanent collection of the artist’s work. Not far away, Santa Fe’s Museum of Fine Arts also displays a number of her works, along with those of other artists involved in the Taos and Santa Fe art communities.
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Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.