Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land
Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) began spending part of the year living and working in New Mexico in 1929, a pattern she rarely altered until 1949. She then made Northern New Mexico her permanent home three years after the death of Alfred Stieglitz, her husband, celebrated photographer, and America’s first advocate of modern art. O’Keeffe was inspired to paint and draw New Mexico’s distinctive churches, crosses, folk art, representations of Katsinam (carved and painted representations of Hopi and Pueblo spirit beings), as well as the astonishingly beautiful, painted desert that surrounded her Ghost Ranch house.
During that first summer, O’Keeffe expressed the extent of her new experience in at least twenty-three paintings that depict an extraordinary diversity of subjects including architecture, landscape, and religious arts of the region. The exhibition Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land is focused on how these new experiences inspired O’Keeffe as she expanded her visual vocabulary and broadened the concept of American Modernism. It includes drawings and paintings of the architecture, landscape, and cultural objects that fascinated O’Keeffe and became part of her artistic practice as she explored a new environment and experimented with new colors, forms, and compositional strategies. Works in the exhibition date from 1929, the first year she painted in New Mexico, to 1953, the last year she used the area’s landscape forms as subject matter. Inspired by the distinctive regional identity, the landscapes in this exhibition are a familiar theme and represent O’Keeffe’s contribution to American Modernism during the 1930s and 40s.
Less familiar is the rich array of imagery that reveals the expanse of her initial curiosity about her new environment, and her sensitivity to the diversity of people and cultures of New Mexico. For example, she showed an immediate interest in the breadth of the vernacular architecture in the region. During this same period she painted religious imagery, including churches, Hispanic Santos and representations of Hopi and Pueblo Katsinam. While the New Mexico landscape remained a prominent part of O’Keeffe’s life and art, especially after she left Taos to live and paint at Alcalde, Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, very little has been known or written about her involvement with Native American and Hispanic art and culture. The paintings included in this exhibition bring to light the formal and cultural interests that drew O’Keeffe to New Mexico and sustained her artistic practice far from New York City.
Co-curators for the exhibition are Barbara Buhler Lynes, former Curator, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and The Emily Fisher Landau Director, Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center and Carolyn Kastner, Associate Curator.
An exhibition catalogue accompanies “Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico” published by the Museums of New Mexico Press. It includes an introduction by Lynes that discusses O’Keeffe’s interest in aspects of Native and Hispanic culture and an essay by Kastner that analyzes the current questions about making and displaying katsina dolls. W. Jackson Rushing III, Eugene B. Adkins Presidential Professor of Art History, University of Oklahoma, has written an essay that clarifies how and why other modern American artists, who came to the Southwest, sought to create from the area’s landscape forms an imagery specific to American art. A catalogue essay by Hopi artist, Ramona Sakiestewa, and Kastner’s interview with Hopi artist, Dan Namingha, offer additional insight into the issue of depicting and displaying Katsina dolls. An essay by Hopi Tribal and Council Member, Alph H. Secakuku, explains the meaning, function, and significance of Katsinam within Hopi culture, its dances, ceremonies, and rituals.
Georgia O’Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land was organized by the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. This exhibition and related programming were made possible in part by a generous grant from The Burnett Foundation. Additional support was provided by American Express, the Healy Foundation, Shiprock Gallery, Hotel Santa Fe, the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission 1% Lodger’s Tax Funding.