Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Santa Fe, Abiquiu and Georgia O'Keeffe

Quick watercolor from my travel sketchbook, Ann Marie Scott, 2011

I just got back from Santa Fe.  After all the pictures and paintings I'd seen I thought I "knew" the place...definitely not, it was full of surprises.  One big one was the altitude, that was real tough for someone who has barely ever been above sea level her whole long life.  But it didn't stop me, I just woozied my way all over the place and drank absolutely bizarre amounts of water.  Anyone know what they do for outrageously dry skin?  

The landscape blew me completely away.  I've never seen anything like it and photos do not do it justice.  I'm a geology geek who doesn't know enough about it but has a huge hunger to learn and that landscape is fantastic for folks like me.  Once I started asking questions and learning about the forces that shaped the land my mind could hardly grasp the scale of those events.  I wonder what it all looked like before the massive volcanos blew, was it lush, green, tropical?

I took a tour of Abiquiu, Ghost Ranch and beyond with Southwest Adventures http://www.swadventures.com/ourtours.html ( I HIGHLY recommend them...they are terrific!) I saw a ton and learned even more especially things about Georgia O'Keeffe I never knew.  She was pretty ornery and a loner, not necessarily a negative thing but I find it sad particularly once you meet the people in the area.  Friendly doesn't nearly describe it, they are without a doubt the nicest, sweetest people ever.  I come from Massachusetts which I often call "Crankachusetts" because we are all so cranky due to the weather.  

No matter what Ms. O'Keeffe's temperament was she certainly was an adventurous and courageous women...two things I greatly admire.  Can't say I've ever been a big fan of her work but I certainly like a lot of it and my favorites are:  Cottonwood III, Black Iris, all the Black Mesa paintings, Ranchos Church, Patio with Black Door to name some.  Since I do not have permission to post those images I rely on your sense of curiosity to seek them out.  Always be curious!  It's another trait I greatly admire in people.  As we drove around this still barren, extraordinary landscape I wondered how it was for her so many decades ago when there was even less out there and then to think about how she dragged her paints, canvases, etc around the parched countryside.  Did anyone tell her to drink freakish amounts of water?  Did she almost pass out every few steps from the altitude?  There were lots of critters out there then, we hadn't killed them all off as yet and she hiked all around into some incredibly remote areas often with the specific  intent of avoiding or hiding from people to paint in pure peace.  She was one tough woman!  Her paintings nail the landscape out there and by seeing it made me appreciate her work all the more.

Seeing the land also re-invigorated my love of painting landscape.  I've never seen anything like it having spent my entire life in the juicy green Northeast and traveling to other juicy green places.  The entire landscape out there begins with my favorite ancient color...yellow ochre.  But the earth is also red, pink, white, naples yellow light, with itchy looking green (yellow & black blend with a touch of viridian) polka dot pines literally polka-dotting the land and they are a perfect fit.

The other noticeable thing is hard to articulate but the landscape is far more than just a pretty scene...it is sacred.  Black Mesa is a formidable, palpable presence and I also would be very happy to sit there for ages and paint it's many manifestations.


Another quick watercolor from my travel sketchbook, Ann Marie Scott, 2011
Travel always energizes me and this trip offered intriguing surprises.  I most certainly will be back out there to spend quality time painting and exploring.





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