For me there is no better way to end my blog series than to mention the spiritual connection that I have formed with the natural wonders surrounding Cody, Wyoming. Being a rookie art historian I would like to convey my experiences in the past two months by associating with an artist who often exhibited in her works an almost mystical relationship with the natural world of the West. As I sifted through the countless masterpieces in the Whitney’s works on paper collection I came upon two prints by one of my favorite female artists, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). She is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. O’Keeffe has been recognized as the “Mother of American modernism”. The two prints in our collection respectively titled, Road Past the View II and Taos Pueblo (1975), are later works that she painted while living in New Mexico.
In 1940, she moved into a house located on the Ghost Ranch property in north central New Mexico. The varicolored cliffs of Ghost Ranch inspired some of her most famous landscapes. In 1977, O’Keeffe wrote: “the cliffs over there are almost painted for you—you think—until you try to paint them.”
O’Keeffe’s works teach us to look closer; from a far we might see a barren landscape or a housing structure, but as we move in closer, we are exposed to brilliant variations of colors and the curvature in the lines that comprise the mountain tops, which somehow remind me personally of a ritualistic procession. I believe that within those expressive lines and bright choice in colors, lies the spirit of the American West that inspired her work. For me the West has had a similar impact, the natural wonders that I have witnessed have irreversibly altered my senses and being. I have felt, like O’Keeffe, that each cliff had been painted for me and waited there for me to discover its hidden beauty. Week after week I felt the urge to make the procession of climbing a mountain peak or hiking the pristine trails around every corner of Wyoming. The sheer beauty of the ever-changing landscapes pushed me beyond any limit I was ever willing to approach before arriving here in the West and I know in my heart that this will not be a lasting goodbye.
On a lighter note I would like to leave you with a few words that impacted me when I first arrived here in Cody, and which I will be taking back with me to the unruly state of Florida: