Those who photographed Georgia O’Keeffe had a certain way of turning their lens. After Steiglitz and before Todd Webb many failed to capture key aspects of her character — gentleness, humor, femininity — instead her stoic seriousness always got the limelight. This severity of expression she is known for cannot be accurate, as I am hard-pressed to believe that Georgia was the type of gal who never had any fun. She may have been a self-made loner — always aloof, collected, and cool — but her visceral connection to the land she adored belies a churning inner intensity and passion I highly admire. What she owned and had; a simple house, a few good chairs, a couple outfits in all black and white which were totally interchangeable, a Ford Truck. No husband — just her work and maybe a studio companion from time to time.
Perhaps her minimalism seemed oppressive to others — a self-imposed denial of aesthetic pleasures and modern comforts. But adornment and addition for their own sake are what seemed oppressive to O’Keeffe. She was a master editor – lover of the barren, raw, wild, and wind-swept. Keeper of all things callous, coarse, fibrous, and unfinished. To separate the wheat from the chaff — this is where she excelled. Great work is marked by simplicity.
Spending her days at Ghost Ranch, O’Keeffe explored Northern New Mexico in her black Ford Model A — driving to the Plaza Blanca Cliffs, the Badlands near Abiqui, and the Cerro Padernal. These dramatic cliffs and clefts — in addition to her assembled skulls, driftwood, and desert flora — were the subjects to which her prolific brush and incredible eye eeked out depth and beauty.