In 1945, Georgia O’Keeffe purchased a four acre site with an adobe hacienda style house built around a central patio, on a mesa in the village of Abiquiu. Constructed from local materials, the uninhabited house was a ruin returning to the earth, when she first saw it. O’Keeffe welcomed the opportunity to rebuild it and make it her own, suited to her artistic practice. O’Keeffe lived and worked in the house for the rest of her life, finding continuing inspiration in the architecture of the home and the views of the surrounding landscape. This exhibition brings together paintings inspired by her Abiquiu home, some seen for the first time in many decades. It also includes a reconstruction of the view from her studio, centered on a work table of her own design, arranged with her original art materials and tools.
O’Keeffe engaged Maria Chabot, to assist her with the restoration of the walled compound in Abiquiu. While the footprint of the structure was faithful to the original, Chabot reimagined new uses for the existing rooms. She mapped a plan for domestic spaces, a garden with fruit trees, the largest studio the artist ever had, and a plan to enlarge the windows toward the view of cottonwood trees to the north and the mesa east of the house.
Surrounded by a wall, the house looked inward to a patio, and did not offer the dramatic vistas of O’Keeffe’s first home at the Ghost Ranch. The only possibility for gaining a view of the surrounding landscape was beyond the walls of the compound. Chabot imagined a studio in a separate building at the edge of the mesa that had previously functioned as a stable and buggy house. It sheltered the largest interior space on the property and offered the only possibility for an extended view. Further, Chabot suggested opening the wall in O’Keeffe’s studio with a picture window, which allowed an endless view toward the Chama River Valley and the Jemez Mountains beyond. During the 1950s the overlook from her studio inspired O’Keeffe to create more than two dozen paintings of the cottonwood trees that grew along the river below. Ten of those paintings are included in this exhibition.
Though the studio window was an extravagant luxury in rural New Mexico, Chabot asked O’Keeffe if she would also like her corner bedroom to be “mostly glass.” With O’Keeffe’s consent, Chabot installed a modern picture window in the studio along with an expanse of glass at the corner of the adjoining bedroom. The view from the artist’s bed room window also stirred her imagination. In 1952, O’Keeffe began to visualize the winding road that cut through the landscape in a series of ever-more simplified compositions. Paintings and drawings of the mesa and road are also part of the exhibition.
The paintings that comprise this exhibition are emblematic of O’Keeffe’s endless fascination with the color and form of her surroundings in northern New Mexico; a landscape that inspired her art and the reconstruction of her home and studio in Abiquiu.
During the course of 2014, the gallery installations will change to reveal different views of the property, including images of her famous patio and the black door.