Sunday, May 23, 2010

O'Keefe Country

About 90 minutes northwest of Santa Fe is Ghost Ranch, most notably associated with artist Georgia O'Keefe.

A gravel road led us past several rock formations that could easily serve as subjects for the artist's paintbrush.

Today Ghost Ranch is a retreat and education center run by the Presbyterian church, offerring various classes in everything from writing, photography, silversmithing, and sacred journeys.

But the Ranch has had an intereting history, much of it intertwined with O'Keefe's life.

Ghost Ranch can trace its transformation from el Rancho de los Brujos, a hideout for legendary outlaws, to a dude ranch, to a renowned cultural mecca and one of the Southwest’s premier conference centers.

O'Keefe visited Northern New Mexico in 1917 and in 1929, and in 1934 she decided to make Ghost Ranch her summer home. It was during the Ranch's life as a dude ranch that O'Keefe wanted to buy the ranch.

This attempt was unsuccessful, so instead, she rented a secluded area with a modest house. Finally, in the summer of 1940, she convinced the owner to sell her a small part of Ghost Ranch, a house and seven acres.

She also wanted a garden and a winter home, so in 1945, she bought three acres in the nearby village of Abiquiu. This became her permanent address from 1949 until 1984 when she moved to Santa Fe, where she lived until her death in 1986 at age 98.

Since much of the property beyond the parking lot at the Visitors' Center is private property, we were limited to photographing the beautiful multi-layered cliffs from this location.

Even though Ghost Ranch is a active conference center and retreat facility with overnight accom-modations for participants, it was a very peaceful setting. Only the sounds of arriving and departing vehicles broke the silence.

Even though the Ranch covers some 22,000 acres, this view to the south of the Visitors' Center would seem to offer many possibiliies for paintings.

This view to the west extends far beyond the Ranch's boundaries. O'Keefe's purple and red mountains can be seen in the distance.

A short, four-mile drive north brought us to Echo Amphi-theater in the Carson National Forest. We had not done any homework to prepare us for this stop, which makes for an interesting surprise.

To us this seemed to be an amphi-theater within an amphi-theater. That is, the sandstone cliffs form a large semi-circle and in the center of this sandstone curve is this "theater" (below), naturally hollowed out of sandstone by ages of erosion. The concave sandsone cliffs create everlasting echos.

Along the short walk from the parking lot, we saw several people painting this scene.

We wondered if the artists linked our two stops of the afternoon. Was this outing part of a workshop offerred at Ghost Ranch?

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