Sharon Oard Warner

Sharon Oard Warner

Georgia O’Keeffe and Fear

16 Sep­tem­ber 2016

“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.

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.

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.

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.

Georgia O'Keeffe national monument
Fore­ground: The Nation­al Land­mark Mark­er
Back­ground: Bar­bara, our won­der­ful docent.
View from the Ghost Ranch
View from the Ghost Ranch
Restored garden
Restored gar­den
back of the Ghost Ranch home
Back of the Ghost Ranch home
Milking the cow
At the D.H. Lawrence Ranch out­side Taos, New Mex­i­co, Lawrence milk­ing Susan, the cow

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