Georgia O’Keeffe and Fear

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.”
Georgia O’Keeffe

This week, the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center is sponsoring a forum on “Balancing Authenticity, Idealism, and Expectations at a Single-Focus Institutions.”  This three-day event (Sept. 14-16) has drawn a number of museum directors, archivists, and independent scholars.  As well as one English professor and novelist.  That would be me.  I am taking part on behalf of the D. H. Lawrence Ranch Initiatives.

Foreground: The National Landmark Marker Background: Barbara, our wonderful docent.

Like Georgia O’Keeffe, I have often been frightened.  Also like her, I have pushed myself to act in spite of my fear.  Yes,  I was a wee bit scared to attend the forum because, after all,  what do I know about museums?  (Shrug) I’ve wandered through quite a few of them.

Believing in yourself can be difficult, but believing in your cause, in this case the D. H. Lawrence Ranch, well, that’s not hard at all.  The Ranch could be and should be a museum and it could be and should be a residency center for the arts.

(BTW: I don’t believe Georgia O’Keeffe was frightened every moment.  That’s the sort of hyperbole that the Misfit indulged in at the end of Flannery O’Connor’s story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” Do you remember the concluding line of the story?  The misfit has just shot the grandmother, and he speaks this line over her body:

“She would have been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

But, as a result of my tour, I do know that Georgia O’Keeffe was certainly frightened during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Would you believe she had a bomb shelter built outside the bedroom of her Abiquiu home?   The docent told us about the bomb shelter, which is built into the side of a hill, as well as all the supplies O’Keeffe ordered to be stored in the shelter.  Once she was prepared for disaster,  she went right on making art.

View from the Ghost Ranch home

Seeing O’Keeffe’s home at Abiquiu is something I’ve dreamed of doing for years, and I am grateful to the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center for the fascinating tour of both the Abiquiu and the Ghost Ranch homes.

Back of the Ghost Ranch home

In recent years, the caretakers for the Abiquiu house have restored the gardens where O’Keeffe grew most of her vegetables and fruit.  History brought to life, quite literally.

While it’s true that Lawrence didn’t raise vegetables at the Ranch, he did have a cow named Susan, and he milked her whenever he could catch her.

In recent years, the Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch homes have been carefully preserved and lovingly tended, but such was not always the case.  It’s up to those of us who care about an artist’s legacy to preserve it.


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