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“The Sky is Different, the Wind is Different”: Considering Georgia O’Keeffe as Traveler

By Leigh Patterson

Travel opens up possibilities of seeing the world as if with new eyes, expanding our realm of possibility and perhaps bringing new clarity to what we already know. While visiting the Brooklyn Museum’s show on Georgia O’Keeffe last year, themes that stuck with us were the roles that travel, place, and discovery played in both the development of O’Keeffe’s art and its integration into her routine, home, and perspective. Below, a snapshot of her journeys, and a reminder of why we travel.

Shaina Mote — “The Sky is Different, the Wind is Different”: Considering Georgia O’Keeffe as Traveler
Bruce Weber. Georgia O'Keeffe, Abiquiu, N.M., 1984. Gelatin silver print, 14 x 11in. Bruce Weber and Nan Bush Collection, New York

Japan: Conceptual Souvenirs
In the 1950s O’Keeffe traveled around India, Southeast Asia, and Japan. After she returned, she painted two views of Fujisan in shades of pastel pink, blue, and ivory, communicating a specific reflection of her journey. She also returned from Japan with a trunk filled with traditional kimonos, which she’d layer into her polished desert wardrobe.

Line drawings by O’Keeffe, inspired by the views of the earth and rivers as seen from the sky

In Transit: Heightened Perspectives
"Such things as I have seen out this window I have never dreamed – though it is more like my dreams than anything I have ever seen – a great river system of green and grey seeming to run uphill to a most dream like lake of bluish and pinkish grey all in the softest most chiffon-like colors  – then great areas of sand in soft dark wave like shapes – then a few small patches of green – all sorts of queer [mottled] shapes with a long line of road stretching across it into the sky – I really can’t tell of it but it makes me believe in my dreams more than I ever have … “ — from a letter by O’Keeffe to her sister Anita, documenting what she saw out the window on a flight from Tehran.

Images from the O’Keeffe Foundation, travel ephemera from O’Keeffe’s archives

Mexico: Locating Freedom
In February 1951, O’Keeffe drove to Mexico with a few friends. While there, she would visit with Frida Kahlo, and travel to various places including Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and the Yucatan. In a letter to Peggy Kiskadden on letterhead from the Rancho San Felipe in Oaxaca, she’d write, “For a long time I have intended to come down here so here I am. It is the first that I have felt free.” *

*Quoted “From the Far Faraway: O'Keeffe's Travel Ephemera” via the O’Keeffe Foundation

Images from the O’Keeffe Foundation, travel ephemera from O’Keeffe’s archives

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