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Pedernal-From the Ranch #1

In New Mexico, O’Keeffe spent most of her time in the village of Abiquiu, or at her nearby home Ghost Ranch.

The flat-topped Cerro Pedernal is a popular tourist destination, especially for those who love O’Keeffe’s artwork.
Steven Schroeder, Pedernal, New Mexico, 1999, digital photograph

O’Keeffe made several series of bone paintings. In one series, she painted bones floating in the sky.
Pelvis with the Moon—New Mexico, 1943, oil on canvas, Norton Museum of Art, © 2006 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

key idea
The natural world of New Mexico inspired Georgia O’Keeffe.

Georgia O’Keeffe’s life changed when she made an extended trip to New Mexico in 1929. A country girl who grew up in the farmlands of Wisconsin, she immediately fell in love with New Mexico’s rugged landscape. By the 1930s, O’Keeffe, who lived in New York City, was spending several months at a time by herself in New Mexico. In a letter to a close friend she explained her frequent visits: “You know I never feel at home in the East like I do out here—and finally feeling in the right place again—I feel like myself—and I like it.” By 1949, she had moved to the state permanently. She lived there the rest of her life.

The mountains of New Mexico were among O’Keeffe’s favorite subjects to paint. The flat-topped Cerro Pedernal, a unique mesa near the town of Abiquiu, fascinated her. She referred to it as her mountain and joked, “God told me if I painted that mountain enough, he’d give it to me.” Today, many people still call the Pedernal “O’Keeffe’s Mountain.”

O’Keeffe found inspiration in the smaller details of the terrain as well. Bones, rocks, and pieces of wood became subjects for her artwork. Bones, especially, intrigued her: she saw them as beautiful flowers of the desert and symbols of life. This idea so captivated her that she shipped large barrels of bones to her home in New York so she could continue to paint them even when she wasn’t in New Mexico.

October 2007