BootsnAll Travel Network

New Mexico and the Selling of Georgia O’Keeffe

It’s 8:30 a.m. and I’m in Albuquerque at the Howard Johnson’s, waiting for Diane to arrive. We’ll go to breakfast, and then she’ll drive me to Upaya. So far my trip has been airports, expressways, and this generic motel, though I had good talk with Diane in the motel room last night, and this morning when I woke at 5:30 a.m. local time, I stood at the motel window and saw to my right a smear of mauve sunrise and a hill, black against a pale sky; to my left, the expressway. The hotel “guide” (info on room service, pool hours, etc.) has an O’Keeffe painting on the cover. Lying on the table next to the TV is a copy of New Mexico Magazine for July 2007, with a black and white cover shot of Georgia O’Keeffe at about 35. Inside there’s an article about the 10th Anniversary of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. In the lobby of the motel there’s a Georgia O’Keeffe poster. A big flower. There’s another one in the elevator.

In the New Mexico Magazine article the author, a woman named Judyth Hill, gushes predictably about O’Keeffe’s originality and nerve. Hill begins, “Picture Georgia O’Keeffe, 1915, South Carolina. She is beginning to be the artist she has worked and dreamed to become.” Please. If we are going to become artists, that process begins when we are born and doesn’t stop. Hill goes on. She claims that in 1915 O’Keeffe made a vow, and then, quoting O’Keeffe: “to start anew–to strip away what I had been taught–to accept as true my own thinking.”

That phrase, “to accept as true my own thinking” is set in large type as a sub-head for the article. I guess O’Keeffe said that. It is the kind of thing young artists say. I bet O’Keeffe would have repudiated the whole statement by the time she was sixty. I, too, am starting anew. Today I am 62. But I don’t need to strip away what I’ve been taught. Time has done that. What I have been taught has either become part of me or has fallen away. And I definitely don’t trust my own thinking. What a world of trouble that has gotten me into. I do want to strip away all I can of human foolishness.

I found this wonderful bit in another novel I’m reading, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea: “She had always, of course, assumed that men were idiots. But suddenly she understood that women were idiots, too. That all people under the sun were fools. Wasting lives. Sniffing up each other’s legs like dogs, scurrying around in circles while their days bled away.” Oh yes.

I’d like to strip away all that scurrying around in circles impressing each other, getting and spending, seeking brass rings that give no real pleasure. I want to know what I can accept as true. What? What?

Back to the selling of Georgia O’Keeffe. According to the magazine, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Santa Fe Museum of Georgia O’Keeffe, on August 24 there is “An elegant dinner at O’Keeffe’s 5000-square-foot Spanish Colonial-era home in Abiquiu. Space is limited. Call for ticket information.” I try to imagine O’Keeffe herself, faced with that elegant dinner party. The day after that party, there is another: “Celebratory dinner, dance, and live auction offering exotic [!] trips, entertainment and collectible art, in honor of the museum’s founders….” God help us. What a lot of scurrying and sniffing. I look out at the parking lot, the expressway, and I feel a great ache of compassion for our collective idiocy, greed, and ignorance. Let the day begin.

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-98 responses to “New Mexico and the Selling of Georgia O’Keeffe”

  1. stephenbrody says:

    Very good, Kendall!

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