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Drive-by O’Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) Small Purple Hills 1934 Oil on board

When you work in an art museum, you often get to hear little tidbits of information from guests, staff, and volunteers about personal experiences they have had with famous artists. One such gem was collected recently from Museum volunteer Mark Mallett. Like many of our volunteers, Mark has a fascinating and diverse background, part of which led him and his brother to Ghost Ranch, near one of the two homes Georgia O’Keeffe owned in New Mexico. Here, Mark shares his one brief but humorous drive-by encounter with O’Keeffe:

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) Small Purple Hills 1934 Oil on board

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986)
Small Purple Hills
Oil on board

One day my brother and I were admiring the Georgia O’Keeffe painting Small Purple Hills. We have both had many visits to a Presbyterian camp at Ghost Ranch, and I asked my brother, “Where do you think that is?” A nearby Gallery Guide responded that the site was located north of Santa Fe and my brother replied, “I think I’ve been there. I think it’s in the badlands south of Kitchen Mesa on Ghost Ranch.” Then he went on to describe to the delighted Guide the beauties of Ghost Ranch and the number of landscape features seen in Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings.

Once 54 years ago my brother and I were driving on a Ghost Ranch road and we saw Georgia O’Keeffe coming our way with a sketch pad under her arm. I slowed my 1950 Ford so as not to shower her with dust. As we passed her, I said, “Good afternoon Miss O’Keeffe.” She didn’t look up, said “Damned Presbyterians!” and kept on walking.

Linda DeBerry
Senior Copy Editor / Publications Manager

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