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O'Keeffe's Abiquiu Home

Posted: Mar 26 2016

At the top of a winding and dusty road in Abiquiu, New Mexico, just past Bode's General Store--the best place for snacks and hanging out, you'll find a small and seemingly unassuming adobe house right across from the post office. 

Georgia O’Keeffe spent nearly 50 years traveling between, primarily, New York and New Mexico before finally settling down in Ghost Ranch, which is about 45 minutes outside of Santa Fe. She was drawn to the land, the dryness, the sense of isolation, and the abundance of beautiful things and scenery that, of course, served as the subject matter for many of her paintings. She loved it and Abiquiu, the close-by town.

Abiquiu has been around since prehistoric times. The name is a Spanish combination of the Indian Tewa words pay sha boo-oo,“timber-end town,” and abechin, “hoot of an owl.”

There she lived in a house with one room, with a ghost, and maintained a long distance relationship with her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. When Stieglitz passed away, she found it extremely difficult to inhabit her home.

So she looked for a new place and when it came time to buy, she was drawn to a semi-destroyed and uninhabitable Spanish colonial structure, so after 15 years of negotiation for the purchase of the small property, she bought it in 1945 for $10 from the Roman Catholic Church in Santa Fe. She made the lot into her studio and home.

When she took over, she kept most of the historic fixtures intact: the vigas (wood rods that essentially hold the ceiling up), the adobe, the fireplaces, and the walls. A space that once held cattle became her painting studio; a room that once served as wagon storage became her bedroom. She tried to preserve as much of the original structure as possible, making only small alterations, like opening up walls and windows so that she could better view the landscape. She kept most of the walls empty.

O’keeffe decorated the place sparsely with a select few works of art--including a mobile in the living room by Alexander Calder and a Juan Hamilton sculpture, sculptural pieces of furniture, and branches, bones, rocks and other found, natural objects that she collected from the surrounding area. 

The outside has apricot trees, prickly pear cactus, sage and yucca and a garden full of vegetables. O'Keeffe's favorite view was of a disarmingly beautiful mesa called Pedernal. She painted it many times, and joked that God told her she could have it if she stared and appreciated it enough.  Some of the artist's ashes were scattered on top of Pedernal. 

O'Keeffe died in 86, but an estimated 5,000 people visit the site each year and the area surrounding the house, Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, still feel incredibly desolate.  If you're in Santa Fe, it's well worth the trip. Tours are by appointment only! You can find more information and tickets here, and finish off your day at the O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, followed by a drink called The Georgia and the museum's restaurant, Georgia. 

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