This Summer I unintentionally set off on what I am calling my O’Keeffe Journey. It started with a book that I checked out at the library to learn more about O’Keeffe as a seamstress and designer (in her earlier years she sewed her own clothing). What I thought would be a quick perusal of images, turned out to be a cover-to-cover read that I could not put down.
Coincidentally, after I started reading the book, Kurt and I decided to plan a trip together to Santa Fe. I knew I needed to go to Abiquiú.
Although I have a Master’s Degree in Art History, I can not say I remember much about Georgia O’Keeffe except the stereotypical, glossed over, sexualized views. And I never really considered myself a ‘fan’. But things change ~ you change, the world changes, and you hopefully begin to see things in an entirely different light. You see, sometimes our perceptions of ourselves, and historical perceptions of an artist, aren’t quite right. And if we have learned anything the last few years, we should all know that it is TIME for women to be OKAY with who we are, it is TIME to reframe our definition of ourselves, and it is time for historical definitions and perceptions of women in history to be redefined (thank goodness for that one Goddess class I had in grad school, but it was ONE…).
The book I read this Summer was Georgia O’Keeffe Living Modern. While reading this book, I became fascinated with so many things I did not know about Georgia O’Keeffe. I learned more about her sewing and curation of her wardrobe, that she had a large garden at Abiquiú from which she made most of her meals and preserved food for the winter, that she was very much into healthy eating that now seems WAY ahead of its time, that she was incredibly resilient, resourceful, and independent in all aspects of her life - not just her artistic life. This particular quote profoundly struck me, as I have struggled with the domestic and creative life I have taken on since leaving my job to become an entrepreneur in 2017:
“One works I suppose because it is the most interesting thing one knows to do. The days one works are the best days. On the other days one is hurrying through the other things one imagines one has to do to keep one’s life going. You get the garden planted. You get the roof fixed. You take the dog to the vet. You spend a day with a friend. You learn to make a new kind of bread. You hunt up photographs for someone who thinks he needs them. You certainly have to do the shopping. You may even enjoy doing such things. You think they have to be done… But always you were hurrying through these things with a certain amount of aggravation so that you can get at the painting again because that is the high spot - in a way it is what you do all the other things for.” Georgia O’Keefe from ‘Living Modern’, p. 184
I have learned that living a domestic and creative life is a gift to be embraced. I make bicycle bags because I believe deeply in the power of bicycling.
I grew up during a time where working a full-time job outside of the home was never, ever, a question for me. My mother stayed at home, for which I was tremendously fortunate, but women (girls really) my age knew that we would go to work in an office and plan to do that our entire careers. I never ever planned to be an entrepreneur who worked at home, and with it take on more domestic duties than I ever had to do my entire life. For instance, Kurt is a great cook and has always cooked for us, but now due to career changes for both of us, and our desire to eat healthy to support our cycling, I now do all the gardening, shopping, and cooking ~ definitely not something I was ever interested in, or wanted to do. But...
I have learned that my current domestic life is different than the women in generations before me who did not have a choice. I have learned to embrace the freedoms my domestic life affords me, instead of viewing my domestic life as a trap. Georgia helped me see that. Gardening and making her own food through which she took care of her health, mind and body - those are not new ideas, Georgia believed strongly in her way of life, and living a well-designed life in all aspects. Now when I spend time in our garden, in our kitchen, and in the äventyr Design Studio ~ I think of O'Keeffe and I feel empowered. Free.
My favorite things at Abiquiú were Georgia’s special touches of simplistic design:
- The Buddha hand on the striking simple fireplace in Georgia’s bedroom.
- The well-used woven textile cushion on the seat of Georgia’s midcentury chair in her bedroom.
- The beautiful apertif, cocktail, and drinking glasses placed prominently in a small cabinet in the kitchen.
- All the beautiful moments in the living room. Oh the living room!
- Perfectly framed moments throughout the house through passageways and doors. (The tour guide talked about her training of looking through a lense, distilling the essence of a view - her view).
- And yes, there were those flowers. THE flowers you see the paintings of. There in BLOOM in her garden!!! As we rounded the corner to the garden and I saw the first one, it took my breath away.
I have learned that Georgia O’Keeffe was a strong-minded, independent, self-sufficient, worldly woman with a focused way of living that allowed her the freedom to do her art. I am so glad people like Wanda Corn [the author] are reframing Georgia in a long overdue truthful way honoring who she was as a woman. And as part of my O’Keeffe Journey, I have learned to reframe and honor myself. ~DeAnn