I was disappointed that the O’Keefe museum was between exhibits when we went, but then . . .
The day my sister and I visited the museum, they were in the middle of changing exhibits; as a result, only one room was hung and we had access to a short video on O’Keefe’s career. This was a bit disappointing until we were told that there was a free docent tour of artifacts in the O’Keefe Research Center scheduled for the next day. Apparently, the research center only gives these tours a few times a year.
So, we signed up.
The tour was an examination of O’Keefe’s artistic practice through a collection of artifacts from her studio. We saw the extensive color references she kept and how they related to some of her most famous paintings. We saw pastel sticks that she had made herself and there was a discussion of how her pastel and watercolor techniques carried over into her oil paintings. We saw sketches for some of her paintings. And, of course, drawers and drawers of rocks, skulls, vertebra, long bones and other ephemera that were featured so often in her work.
It was a really personal and illuminating glimpse into the life and practice of one of my favorite artists and I feel so lucky that we got to experience it. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed in the research center.