On Sunday Laurie went to work and I headed North to Abiquiu, the home of Georgia O'Keefe for more than 50 years. This painter has always been a favorite of mine; I appreciate the strength and clarity of her voice. I chose to paint at Ghost Ranch, a 21,000 acre retreat and education center, where she first connected to this landscape. The cliffs rise above a valley, striped with rich, warm hues and cut into unique shapes by wind, water and time.
I arrived shortly before noon and checked into the Welcome Center. A $3 donation is suggested for hikers but painters are asked to donate $10. Not much money, but an interesting distinction, I thought. The trails are stupendous and nearly unlimited but I wanted to get right to work so I set up under a large tree near the main building. There were amazing views in every direction and welcoming adirondack chairs from which to view my efforts.
I was nervous. It had been over a week since I put brush to canvas and plein air painting demands full focus. I did pencil sketches in 3 directions and a simple watercolor of Cerro Pedernal (a distant mesa that captivated O'Keefe), then chose to paint Chimney Rock. Why I picked such an iconic view, I don't know. And, what about the undeniable similarity to male anatomy? Was I balancing O'Keefe's inclination to represent female parts (something she denied right up until she died) or was I just missing my boyfriend? No matter, I was set.
I worked 4 hours. People came to talk occasionally. Later in the afternoon a group of hikers settled in the chairs and we exchanged some good-natured banter. Suddenly, I was exhausted. The canvas was covered - it was time to pack up. This was such a short stint in an overwhelmingly gorgeous place! I could have spent months painting there. But, I have structured my quest towards travel. The road calls and now I am in Arizona, pondering the Red Rocks that rise above Sedona.