Friday, June 21, 2013

Too Many Days Since A Night of O'K

About a month ago, I blew out 40 birthday candles.

Actually, this did not happen as my girlfriend's and family members' promises of a candle-topped cake remain only half-baked.

Though 40 and cakeless, last month I DID enjoy a Friday evening visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, where everything was O'K. What a treat as the icing to a five-day vacation including New Mexico destinations in and around Albuquerque, Shiprock, Four Corners, Farmington, Taos and the state capitol.

The road trip holiday also included a day at Colorado's Mesa Verde and an evening in Durango.

Until May 17, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum was on my "to visit" list since its opening in the latter 1990s. A warm Friday afternoon (May 17) proved good timing to arrive at the museum door on opening day for the summer exhibition "Georgia O'Keeffe In New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land" on view through September 11.

The exhibition featured many familiar favorites and an array of surprises worth a special trip.

In the first gallery, fellow O'Keeffe fans and I gathered 'round the landscape canvas currently in circulation as a recent U.S. Postal Service commemorative stamp. We also sampled some early works from the Wisconsin native, including a Manhattan cityscape and some abstract creations (the documentary films playing in the adjacent theatre -- worth a look-see -- explained the varied reasons O'Keeffe's early works differed from her more famous flowers, landscapes and nature-rich works).

One detailed vertical canvas showcased paint resembling black velvet, drawing out a sand-polished animal skull crowned with a large flower blossom -- too cool!

It was fun to see a private collection portrait of a nun-like female figure (I think this canvas is in rotation at the Milwaukee Art Museum, in O'Keeffe's home state).

New-to-my-eyes: Trees and vistas as seen from the artist's home studio at Abiquiu; dreamy nighttime images from O'Keeffe's camping trips in the highlands far west of Santa Fe; religious icons including Kachinas (fabulous!), church steeples, a sunlight cross in a large Easter-themed painting; rooster portraits (i.e. The China Cock) and the rushing mountain waters of Chama River, Ghost Ranch cast in sky blue.

In the museum shop and on the walls of the exhibition, I took time (with the help of the friendly staff) to locate more details about O'Keeffe's 1935 canvas titled Yellow Cactus, which hangs about midway through the exhibition but visible down the length of a main museum corridor.

With their team, the co-curators of the exhibition, Carolyn Kastner and Barbara Buhler Lynes, chose to hang Yellow Cactus in one direction (vertically, as I recall), while several published catalogs of O'Keeffe's work present Yellow Cactus horizontally. This led to the biggest lesson of the evening (something I just never noticed in 23 years as an O'K fan): O'Keeffe did not sign her works; therefore, many of them (the florals in particular) may be presented in any direction. While typing this blog tonight, I wonder still whether the museum team went back and re-hung the painting as a result of my gift shop sleuthing.

The visit to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum delivered all I hoped the experience would include and more. Beautiful works, a mix of popular and rarely viewed paintings, detailed history lessons and reminders of longtime favorites. Future plans definitely include return visits, and a trek to the artist's Ghost Ranch home and studio, for which tours are available.

Get yourself to New Mexico and see this outstanding summer exhibition!

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver; image of Yellow Cactus via; postage stamp image via U.S. Postal Service. Special thanks to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum for providing complimentary ticket to the exhibition.



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