Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Exterior museum photo from idorderthat.com

Last week, we visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We visit Santa Fe fairly often, as it's only about an hour's drive from Albuquerque, but we had never visited the O'Keeffe Museum before. It's near the Plaza area where so many of the main attractions of Santa Fe can be seen, but far enough away, on a quiet side street, to feel a bit removed from the tourism and bustle, sheltered from it, even. That was one thing I really liked about it; there was a peacefulness, a calmness to set the stage for viewing art. This is a photo-heavy post but I don't think there is any other way to share something so visual.


Georgia O'Keeffe, here seen in a photo on display in the museum, was an American painter who made significant contributions to the American Modernism movement. O'Keeffe was born in 1887 in Wisconsin. She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, learning the techniques of realist painting. Later, her work became much more abstract, and she sent some pieces to a friend, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was the first to exhibit her work in 1916 (he later became her husband). O'Keeffe's early abstract work included paintings of skyscrapers and flowers. In 1929, O'Keeffe made her first visit to New Mexico, where she found much inspiration in the desert landscape. By 1949, after Stieglitz's death, she made her permanent home here. O'Keeffe also traveled internationally, drawing inspiration from locales all over the world. As she aged, O'Keeffe suffered from macular degeneration but persisted in painting even when nearly blind. She died in Santa Fe in 1986, at the age of 98.

The museum is just one part of O'Keeffe's legacy in New Mexico; visitors can also tour her home and studio in Abiquiu, on the Chama River, about 50 miles northwest of Santa Fe. This site is considered a national historic landmark and one of the most important artistic sites in the United States. There is also a research center located near the museum in Santa Fe.


We visited the museum early on a Tuesday morning, just after it had opened for the day. I wasn't sure what to expect, especially since we were visiting with children. Santa Fe is renowned for its many art galleries, filled with intriguing paintings and sculpture, but these are not necessarily the best places for kids. The O'Keeffe Museum was very family-friendly. Though on the small side, its layout is open and airy, with plenty of room to spread out. This was a perfect time of day to visit; it was quiet and not yet busy, and we could stop and look at everything for as long as we wanted.


The children's admission was free, as it is for all students age 17 and under. New Mexico residents pay $8 each, which is four dollars less than the general admission price. So our family was admitted for a total of $16, which is very reasonable as museums go, I think. Upon admission, children are given, on loan, a sketchbook, pencil and small photo book containing instructions for an interactive tour of the museum. You can also download a tour app for both iOS and Android devices with audio, text and video components but we did not do this. We were happy to use the museum's family materials this time around. There is a short film about O'Keeffe played on loop near the museum's entrance, which we did watch and enjoy.



The family activity guide was really helpful and made the visit much more interesting. Visitors, especially young ones, are encouraged to stop and consider the paintings carefully, thinking about why O'Keeffe chose her various subjects, what she saw in them or thought about them, why she painted them the way she did. As a parent, and as a former teacher who often found museum tours a bit tricky with her students, I really appreciated this approach to family museum touring.




We made our way through the different "rooms" of the museum, sort of a winding maze culminating in a huge, light-filled gallery devoted to O'Keeffe's New Mexico-inspired works. The activity guide encouraged children to sketch what they were seeing; the GB, the more artistic of the pair, embraced this enthusiastically. She sketched many of the paintings she saw, and even some of the photographs. Included in the exhibits is a small collection of Stieglitz's photography; O'Keeffe and Stieglitz had a very intricate artistic relationship in addition to their personal one.


 Series I White & Blue Flower Shapes, 1919


 Pond in the Woods, 1922


 Black Hollyhock Blue Larkspur, 1938


Bella Donna, 1939

These are some of my favorite paintings from O'Keeffe's vast series of floral art. The museum's collection is fairly extensive, and I really enjoyed the way the paintings were displayed, in very simple frames on clean, white walls with a fair amount of natural light. Some parts of the museum are darker, with photography prohibited, because they contain exhibits of delicate watercolor paintings.



Horse Skull with White Rose, 1931; Thigh Bone on Black Stripe, 1931

The New Mexico collection was my favorite part of all. I was so enthralled, I didn't take very many photos, but it's fantastic. The collection is in a huge, open room, as I mentioned above, with lots of natural light from skylights. I loved seeing O'Keeffe's paintings of the high-desert landscapes, including mountains, wide-open plains and desert plants. I especially loved these two paintings, the horse skull and thigh bone. Animal bones are a fact of desert life, especially around Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, where O'Keeffe did so much of her painting.

There are many other interesting features in the museum, aside from O'Keeffe's own paintings. I particularly enjoyed seeing photos of her at home in Abiquiu (such as the photo near the beginning of my post, which was taken in 1960, when she was in her seventies; she was working at her table, preparing homegrown greens for salad).


I thought this was a wonderful exhibit. It's a live video feed, shown on a television screen, of O'Keeffe's garden at her home in Abiquiu, which is now maintained as a historic site, as I mentioned above. The feed runs all year and you could, if you visited the museum often, watch the plants grow in her large and well-planned gardens at the home. As it was early in the growing season, especially in high-altitude Abiquiu, there wasn't yet a lot to see when we visited the museum, but I have a feeling it must be quite lush by August, after the monsoon has settled in.

I also enjoyed some small exhibits of O'Keeffe's personal belongings, in glass cases near the New Mexico room.



This is a display of O'Keeffe's "travel boxes," which are filled with souvenirs, photos and brochures from places she visited around the world during her period of international travel, which happened fairly late in her life.


And this is a collection of art materials that she used in her studio, including an artist's case, brushes, tubes of oil paint and other chemicals and tools useful to a painter. It was lovely to see her art supplies, which are cared-for and tidy. Actually, the tidiness of them seems a bit at odds with the dramatic nature of her work, doesn't it? I'm not sure what her studio is like, but I'm even more intrigued to see it now.


We were really glad to have taken the time to visit the O'Keeffe Museum as we passed through Santa Fe on our way to Colorado. The GB was especially happy to see O'Keeffe's work, as she spent a lot of time studying it this year in school. I'm proud to know there is such a lovely museum devoted to O'Keeffe's work, right here in a place that inspired her and that she came to love so much. If you're ever in Santa Fe, I think this museum is a must-see.



Before I go, do you remember when I mentioned awhile back that the GB's class had created their own O'Keeffe-inspired florals in chalk pastel? Here are some of them. The Bear took these photos at our school's annual art-and-poetry exhibition, held in December just before the holidays. They were based on photos the Bear took himself, to help the teacher provide visuals for the children, of flowers around our neighborhood (you can see the photos in the post linked in the text above).  Aren't the drawings wonderful? These were done by children in kindergarten through third grade, or about five to nine years old. The GB's drawing is in the upper photo, in the top left corner. Hers is a drawing of Russian sage flowers. O'Keeffe's work became very important to these children over the past year. I meant to show you these drawings sooner but it slipped my mind. I'm proud to have the GB's Russian sage flowers, now laminated for protection and cleanliness, displayed on the kids' art-gallery wall in our home. I know she's proud of her work and I hope she will always hold on to a little inspiration from Georgia O'Keeffe.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer, this week

















This was our fourth week of summer break.

On Monday, the Bear and I went to the eye doctor. It was our first time seeing this group and we liked them. They said I need glasses, though. I have a mild astigmatism, and I "may be more comfortable" wearing glasses when I watch TV or - when I am tired - read, sew or crochet. The news did not come as a surprise, but I will have to train myself to wear glasses as needed. I haven't picked the glasses yet but I'm kind of excited. Which is maybe slightly sad, but I haven't had anything new, for myself, in a while.

We had our eyes dilated that day, but we had a little extra time after our appointment while the Bear's parents kept the small Bears, so we stopped for frozen yogurt, though we could barely see; we called it a blind date. The children and their grandparents made dinner for us. They made meatloaf, Waldorf salad and green beans, with angel-food cake and raspberries for dessert.

We drove to southwestern Colorado on Tuesday morning, passing through Santa Fe, Espanola and Chama, New Mexico along the way. Our destination was Durango, Colorado, a small town near the San Juan Mountains and National Forest.

In Santa Fe, we stopped to tour the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. I've always wanted to see it. The GB was especially excited, having studied O'Keeffe's work in school this year. I'll share more about the museum another time, but suffice it to say, it was wonderful.

We arrived in Durango in late afternoon, stopping at a grocery store for provisions and continuing on toward our accommodations at Durango Mountain Resort, a ski resort in the mountains above the town. Here, we had reserved a two-bedroom condo for a few days, luxurious digs at low summertime rates. We'd stayed here before, about five years ago, and looked forward to visiting again. Our stay was so nice; we cooked most of our own meals in the kitchen, sat on the deck and watched storms roll in, drank wine and toasted marshmallows in the living-room fireplace. It was truly home away from home and so relaxing.

On Wednesday, we drove out to the tiny Victorian-era mining town of Silverton, driving along the winding San Juan Skyway and into town. It was quaint but touristy, so we continued along to the Old Hundred gold mine, for a fascinating underground tour. I'll blog about it...it was probably my favorite part of the trip.

On Thursday, we drove to Mesa Verde National Park, about an hour west of Durango. Here, you can see ancient pueblos built by cliff-dwelling Native Americans. It was interesting and there was a lot to see, but it was so incredibly hot and sunny, and utterly teeming with people. I'm glad we went, but it definitely wasn't my favorite part of the trip.

Friday saw us heading south and toward home, driving past the Pinkerton Hot Springs rock formation near Durango on the way. We were home in mid-afternoon, just in time for the LB, who'd mentioned a sore throat on the drive home, to spike a fever and go into full sickie mode. I hope the GB escapes this one, but I'm not optimistic since they shared a bed in the condo. Oh, well. At least we got home before illness really struck and we have nowhere we need to be for several days. Let the convalescence commence.

Now I'm doing laundry. I went to the grocery store early this morning and ran into a friend who filled me in on some school-related buzz. This afternoon, I hope to work on my pirate ship. I finally feel like crocheting again, so there may be a little of that too. I feel like baking, but it may wait until Monday because the Bear is cooking and baking this weekend, various recipes he wants to try.

Happy Saturday! I hope you're doing well. Have a wonderful weekend!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summer, this week















This was our third week of summer break.

We had our second week of swimming lessons. This session is over now. Both small Bears passed their level! I'm very proud. We'll have another session in mid-July. I think they'll ace it.

The library is my favorite place on earth right now. The branch we like to visit in the summer (because their summer reading events don't coincidence with swimming, like they do at our regular neighborhood branch) had a big renovation this winter, in which they added a giant event room and greatly improved the air-conditioning system. It's so nice now. A couple of hours in there cools me off for the rest of the day.

I made a really good impromptu cold pasta salad. I cooked one pound of farfalle (bowtie) pasta and tossed it with olive oil, salt and pepper and a little of the cooking water. Then I added some ribbons of salami, bits of provolone cheese, cut-up Campari tomatoes, quartered artichoke hearts (from a can), sliced black olives and some fresh basil. It was delicious and plentiful; we had enough for a dinner and a lunch.

The heat is on, as mentioned. The smoke is too, as there are two big wildfires in nearby parts of the state. We're not in any danger here, but the smoke haze has been a problem. Gorgeous sunsets, though; the sun is blood-red and the whole sky turns pink. Hopefully, the monsoon fires up soon and brings much-needed rain, to us all and especially to the fire zones.

We've been enjoying a special treat - a flat of San Pellegrino citrus sodas from Costco. So delicious.

I've been listening to this song a lot lately, Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself," featuring Ed Sheeran. I love Ed, am not normally that much of a Bieber fan, but this song is great.

I'm savoring my cups of tea in the afternoon (usually Bigelow English Teatime, sometimes chai), especially since I haven't had enough time for morning cups while swimming has been going on.

On that note, I didn't finish any books this week. I didn't win the library's reading prize for adults either (it's a random weekly drawing). I also entered a fun contest where you have to identify a book which they have shredded and placed in a jar. I saw "Pemberley" and "Bennet," so it better have been Pride and Prejudice.

The pirate ship is going fast now. I started the boat part this week. I'm trying to slow down and savor the work, but I really love this project. I work on it most afternoons, catching the tail end of John Tesh on the radio in the living room. That's usually when I have my tea.

We're having a labor dispute with our hens. They aren't laying much lately (which may be related to molting, or to their getting older), but we know they have eaten a couple of their own eggs too. We put a plastic Easter egg in the nest box to help deter egg-eating. They take turns sitting on the plastic egg; one gets off and the other hops on. Hens are entertaining.

The Bear and I are SO EXCITED for the return of Endeavour tonight (jumping.out.of.our.skins!). We love this show and we've waited about two years for a new season. It's slick and creepy and gorgeous. I adore the mod fashions. We're looking forward to checking out the new show, The Tunnel, as well (especially me). I do so love my imported public-television dramas.

We're cooking up a storm today, making a Father's Day dinner for the Bear's dad. He's putting St. Louis-style ribs in the smoker and I'm making side dishes, with strawberry ice cream for dessert. I just put the cream mixture in the fridge to chill and we'll churn it this afternoon. I'm barely stopping myself from eating it now. The struggle is real.

Thanks for your comments lately. I'm so glad you enjoyed seeing Nora's and Nellie's beds and that they brought back sweet memories for some of you. I hope you have a good week ahead. On Tuesday, I'll be hitting the road with my three Bears for a few days. See you soon!
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