Abiquiu in Northern New Mexico is the place where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted.
“When I got to New Mexico, that was mine.As soon as I saw it , that was my country”
The stunning, stark beauty of the high desert landscape had been her inspiration since her first visit in 1929.For 20 years she travelled from New York to Abiquiu each summer, often staying for six months in solitude, to paint the skies and desert, colored rock formations, distant mountains and Chama river valley.
Smaller found objects like bleached bones and rocks, exotic cactus flowers and the wood and adobe structures also found their way onto her canvases. Three years after her husband’s death she moved permanently to New Mexico and eventually owned two homes .
The first in Ghost Ranch, was high and secluded. Nestled beneath 700-foot cliffs it looked over to the flat-topped Pedernal. “Pedernal is my private mountain” she said frequently.”God told me if I painted it enough I could have it.”
The second, initially used as her winter residence, was in the small town of Abiquiu at an elevation of 6400′ and overlooked the Chama River with its green trees and fields.
Both locations surrounded her with a wealth of imagery for her paintings.
Visiting Abiquiu over Christmas I was struck at each turn of the road how recognizable the landscape is because of our familiarity with O’Keeffe’s work.
Driving north towards Ghost Ranch we knew we were getting close when Chimney Rocks came into sight.
Photographs taken quickly (with the phone!) out the window of the car amazed us with their color and clarity. Georgia O’Keeffe was quoted as saying that most of her art was done in New Mexico before she put her brushes to the canvas.
There is almost no tourist infrastructure in Abiquiu. An Inn with a small but good restaurant. A road house /gas station famous for breakfast burritos. Georgia’s home in town is only open for tours in the warmer months and her home at Ghost Ranch can only be toured via enquiries at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. Ghost Ranch, now owned by the Presbyterian Church is a retreat, conference center,geology museum and place of learning.Each year there are hundreds of classes to take, many residential.
What is there and intensely accessible, are breathtaking vistas that shock. Skies that amaze with crystalline blue beauty, the whitest clouds and nearly every night billions of sparkly stars.Every road takes you somewhere you want to explore:cliff dwellings, pueblos, monasteries and churches, rocks and petroglyphs and tiny adobe hamlets.
We rented a little stone house and pinched ourselves every morning when we looked out the windows, across Georgia’s valley.
State of Enchantment , as marked on the car number plates…not really a cliche!