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Beauty Everywhere

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Another in my series of ongoing citywide vs. countryfied conflicts.

My friend, Ruth, says, “I’m a country girl living in the city.”

Me, when I’m in the country I long to be walking the city streets headed for a latte. When I hang out in the city, I dream of the fresh country air.

Quince Street Bridge

My walk today across the Quince Street bridge, narrow, sloped and aged white, ended at the little community library where people share books. Gail and I are considering one for our street corners. A nice addition to any neighborhood I'm thinking...

Just finished yet another book about one of my favorites artists, Georgia O’Keeffe, Foursome. I really didn’t need to read anything more about her, but the New York Times review about the two artist couples who helped start American Modernism compelled me.

“Foursome is a group portrait of three formidable 20th-century American artists — the photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz, the painter Georgia O’Keeffe and the photographer Paul Strand — plus one rambunctious cowgirl in search of an identity, Rebecca Salsbury. As they couple and uncouple in this fascinating, well-told history by Carolyn Burke it becomes clear that the electric center of this group isn’t Stieglitz, the impresario, as one might guess, but O’Keeffe, the loner.”

I think one of the reasons, besides her extraordinary art, that I’m drawn to O’Keeffe is that she, too, suffered the city-country conflict.

Born in Wisconsin, she spent time in West Texas teaching. We both loved Palo Duro Canyon there.

I wrote this about our time spent there in my forthcoming memoir:

“She spent the first part of her long career teaching in God-forsaken West Texas, home of my alma mater, Texas Technological University. Both Georgia and I spent time in Palo Duro Canyon in that part of the state: me, at fraternity beer busts in the 1960s; her, memorializing the site in vibrant and bold abstract paintings three decades earlier.”

Georgia resisted life in New York City but her art career thrived there. Some of her most beautiful paintings are from Lake George in upstate New York. She spent the second half of her prolific life living in New Mexico as far away from city life as she could get. There she painted her patio door and ghostly relics—bleached bones—that she found in her wilderness.

Wherever the artist was, she painted. She gathered stones from the country to paint, barns from the country, skyscrapers from the big city. Small plants, weeds and ordinary blooms became her signature flower paintings done in startling scale. The artist wanted to be certain we noticed.

This painting of a poisonous plant that grew on her property in Abiquiu, New Mexico was the first assignment I had in my training at The San Diego Museum of Art. All these years later, I still claim it as "my painting!"

The White Flower (White Trumpet Flower), 1932

Besides learning so much about O’Keeffe, I discovered that the beautiful, witchy plant, the Jimson Weed, is a member of the notorious nightshade family; its famous cousins include tomato, eggplant, pepper, tobacco and potato. And, the plant is toxic, particularly the seeds.

One of my favorite stories about it tells of the plants accidental ingestion by some British soldiers in Virginia sent there to suppress Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. After eating some in a stew, the soldiers spent eleven days in an hallucinatory stupor, blowing feathers, kissing their companions and grinning like monkeys.

Serendipitously, I came upon this Jimson Weed thriving on the side of a lonesome outlying road when I strolled in the country a few days later.

Beauty everywhere.

Where do you find beauty?

Coming soon to my friend's house in Ventura!

Beauty in Ventura - Jeff Campbell, son extraordinaire, made this little book house for his mom on her birthday just last week. The cool thing - this little library which she is going to put in front of her house is a replica of her home in Ventura. She's already inviting her neighbors to come borrow a book!


From my friend Jeanine...

"I find beauty in these Colorado mountains! I am in my “reading, knitting chair” looking out at a Colorado blue sky (nothing like it) with a few puffy clouds over pine trees and aspen with their new green leaves! Also a lake and the 18th green of the golf course  - - - that’s beauty to me!!!"

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This beautiful piece reflects what I so admire in the author, her ability to look at the world and see the art and connection in everything. Thank you, Marilyn!

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You two beautiful women--you and Georgia. I too find beauty in city and country. These days: the jasmine growing up the stairs to my apartment. I stand mid-way to my door, dizzy from inhaling its sweetness.

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I love O'Keefe also. Several years ago she had a huge showing at the McNay Museum in San Antonio complete with video. I loved the paintings; have seen her studio in Taos. Imagine my dismay to learn that the McNay exhibit was actually painted by one of her students! Fogeries discovered a couple of years later, but what a woman.

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