Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Easeling in New Mexico

It is easy to Easel when staying with a dear friend! Laurie moved to New Mexico just about a year ago and none of us could believe how quickly she picked up and left Michigan. She was newly single and the strength it took to pull herself out of an unhappy situation carried her all the way to Santa Fe. Her home is lovely and simple, filled with art and indigenous objects with great meaning to her. She danced me around the town for two days, showing me all the most special galleries, shops and markets, including the establishments serving the finest margerittas.

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.

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