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Black Place II is New Mexico sixty million years ago

O'Keeffe harkens back to a time when the rivers were still full of fish and magnolias and fig trees were in full bloom. Until, one unfaithful day nearby volcanoes erupted and spread ashes all over the nearby lands. Erosion eventually washed away a lot of the sediment and left behind grey formations. Grey because of oxidation of the iron and manganese in the ashes. But that’s it for geology class today. Let’s talk art!

Painter Georgia O'Keeffe loved these grey hills, she called them “black place” and compared them to “a mile of elephants”. In 1930, she was first introduced to the landscape and she totally fell in love with the place. The last time O'Keeffe visited was when she was nearly 90 years old! Unfortunately, her eyesight had already begun to fail. She would make the 100+ mile road trip from her home in Abiquiú to the grey hills numerous times. She would set up camp, alone or together with Maria Chabot and Eliot Porter. Back then the area was pretty much inhospitable. There were no roads, there was little vegetation and sometimes the sun would be so intense, she had to crawl under her car. Despite the scorching heat, wind and sand, Georgia made dozens of drawings, pastels and some of her most well-known oil painting here including, obviously, Black Place II.

Today, the site has dramatically changed, some even say threatened. Black Place itself hasn’t been touched yet, but the surrounding area is littered with oil rigs, pipelines, storage pads, and even a gas plant. While many people can find nearby Chaco Canyon, Black Place is very hard to find. That’s probably why, apart from some O'Keeffe fans, no-one is really bothered about the destruction of the site. It took photographer Walter Nelson years to find the exact spot, but eventually he even found the rock on which Georgia posed for a photo. Thank you Georgia for making a lasting memory of this beautiful under appreciated geological site!


Comments (1)

Langworth Abigale

Nice post. Thank you.