Postcards in Isolation 12: Georgia O’ Keeffe, Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II, 1930

Lucy Writers’ Platform

I saw Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II for the first time at Tate Modern’s Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition in early September 2016. The gallery was busy and bustling so I couldn’t stand in front of it for long, but I tried to absorb as much of it as I could, letting my eyes feast on the colours – the blues and the pinks and the browns. Now, in May 2020, a postcard I bought from the exhibition gift shop of the same painting is blu-tacked to my wall. It sits in my eyeline, directly above my desk. Working from home, I’ve been spending a lot of time at this desk lately and have spent a lot of time gazing at O’Keeffe’s interpretation of the New Mexico desert.

Best known for her – traditionally, and maybe deliberately, misinterpreted – flowers, I find O’Keeffe’s landscapes equally, if not more, visually rewarding. I find them calming to look at, and New Mexico / Out Back of Marie’s II is no exception. The scorched earth rolls into infinity, soft curves like a stomach or a breast. When I look at it, I wonder when I will next be able to survey a foreign landscape, or any landscape at all. I wonder when I will be able to stand at the top of Primrose Hill and see the dome of St Paul’s if the day is clear, or watch the rolling coastline out of a train window.

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