Georgia O’Keeffe said in her later years that living on the wide open, barely civilized prairies of north Texas inspired her to begin her lifelong journey as an artist. She sensed in the place and the people what we Texans sense in ourselves—freedom, unbending self-reliance, and unending possibilities.
I feel a kinship with her. I grew up on the same high tabletop plain she was talking about. The most important thing I learned from it was to be content with solitude. And I learned the corollaries of that, to look within for meaning, for entertainment, for the sound judgment of your real instincts.
When she was in her 20s, O’Keeffe taught art at Amarillo High School and later at the West Texas Normal College in Canyon. She painted the magnificent Palo Duro Canyon, the haunting endless flat prairies, and the unmatchable sky. Like so many others before and since, she found some things there she never expected to find, like beauty, mysticism … God, even.
Is there really beauty on the lonely wind-swept flat dusty plains of North Texas? Yes, it’s there. The place is indescribably beautiful but only if you’re looking beyond the surface. O’Keeffe learned to do that during the few years she spent there, and we’re all the richer for it.
I’ve been researching Georgia O’Keeffe’s time in Texas — five or six years in the late 1910s — for my next novel. What a treat to see one of my favorite places through the eyes of one of my favorite artists.
My published novels, The Legend of Juan Miguel and The Passion of Juan Miguel are available on Amazon.com.