Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Garden Party at the Georgia O'Keeffe House in Abiquiu with Holly Sievers

Miss O'Keeffe & I (diptych)

The invitation popped up on my email feed suddenly and unexpectedly, “Into the Garden. You’re invited. Join us for an exclusive feast for the senses in Georgia O’Keeffe’s beloved Abiquiu garden. See this summer’s harvest, and meet the green thumbs behind it. Hear relaxing guitar melodies in the open air. Taste light bites, and enjoy a cooking demo. Have fun and make friends with other members and Curator of Fine Art, Ariel Plotek, on this memorable evening. Begins at the Welcome Center, Abiquiu, NM. Limited space available. Sponsored by Gruet Winery and Sotheby’s.  
Jane Steele, Events Planner Georgia O’Keeffe Museum”

Abiquiu O'Keeffe Welcome Center

Inside the Welcome Center

The first book I ever owned about Georgia O'Keeffe and still my favorite

Holly in the Visitor Center

I immediately checked our membership level, called the phone number listed at the O’Keeffe Museum, and at the same time contacted the author of whom I’m writing a foreword for on her new book of O’Keeffe’s lost letters. 
My first thought was, is this a mistake, or was it due to the author I’m working with. It was truly just the luck of the draw and being at the right place at the right time, or something else…

A purchase in the gift shop, we also purchased t-shirts and several of the Jade Tree plant cuttings from Miss O'Keeffe's plants

Panoramic view from the back of the house

Looking up at the back of the house from the bomb shelter embedded into the hill

Historic landmark placard

Once we had a confirmation email, then we knew that this was truly a blessed invitation. In mid August we’d given ourselves the gift of this membership to the O’Keeffe Museum for our 22nd Wedding Anniversary. On our honeymoon to Taos & Santa Fe we’d visited the newly opened O'Keeffe Museum, which has been a special place for the two of us ever since.

Mountain view and trail to the bomb shelter

Reflections in the back bedroom window off the studio space

Arriving at the appointed time to the O’Keeffe Visitor Center in Abiquiu our hostess for the evening Jane Steele greeted us as she stood by a table of about 50 name tags. As I reached for my name tag Jane seemingly exclaimed, ‘You’re Robert Cafazzo, I’m so happy to meet you!’ Well, that put me on cloud nine, and I say seemingly due to the fact that I still believe this all may have been a dream. 

In the back patio with Holly

Reflection in the studio window

Reflection in the kitchen window

Reflection in the side window

Walkway to doorway

Tree shadows and ghosts

At the Abiquiu house we entered into the courtyard by the Studio next to which was a table where we were served Gruet Champagne. Upon realizing that we were allowed into the studio I entered, (no food or beverages inside). Out back there’s that view of the road and cottonwoods below with those panoramic mountains. “There is a short time at sunset when the whole world has a warm glow…” Georgia O’Keeffe in her own words.

Panoramic view from back of house

Holly in the warm glow of the courtyard

Sunflowers with Ladder

Sunflower ladder

Garden with Ladder

Enjoying Champagne from Gruet 

Ladder in the garden courtyard

Ladder with shadow at midday

Hollyhocks and ladder

Ladder on adobe

Garden and ladder

Ladder with evening shadow

Shadow ladder

Hollyhock with ladder

Hollyhock with ladder unfocused

Chicken Bites

 Recipes using produce from Miss O’Keeffe’s garden. A blanched Swiss Chard wrapped around roasted carrots, quinoa and goat cheese was similar to a vegetarian sushi roll packed with flavor. A Blue Corn Blini served with a Smoked Salmon topping, Chicken bites with lemon and basil puree, a ratatouille pizzette with carrot/pistachio pesto and an Apple/Thyme Galette. I sampled everything at least three times each, just the blue corn cakes alone were light and delicious. Next time I shop at the local farmer’s market when I’m asked if I’d like them to remove the carrot tops, I’ll be keeping them for that pesto recipe. Finding the perfect blue corn pancake recipe is no easy task, now I have one! I asked one of the chefs what got him into cooking, he replied, ‘My Grandmother’, and that is a wonderful way to be inspired to learn to cook.

Kyle Pacheco of Santo Domingo Pueblo 

Esmeralda Lopez & Kyle prepping

Salmon & Blue Corn

Stones, O'Keeffe played a type of musical chairs with her staff and the stones

Hollyhocks in the garden

Aspen Leaves beginning to glow yellow for Autumn

Rose Hips

Apple Tree

Variety of Green Apples

Fig Leaves

Figs weren't quite ripe enough, oooh how I wanted to taste these figs

Corn in the garden almost ready for harvesting

Johnny Blueheart graciously singing his heart out

In the garden out front sitting under an apple tree was Johnny Blueheart, enriching the summer evening with his lovely voice and guitar playing. At some point I noticed a few apples fall off the tree a bit too close to where he sat and retrieved them. O’Keeffe would say about her Abiquiu home, “Yes, my world is very good, such a feeling of quiet, and peace”. 

Stones on the living room window sill

View of the dining room

The dining room table

Please be seated, the dining room table, studio table and kitchen table are all planks of plywood which have been softened with a pale white wash and mellowed over these many years

Pantry window


Kitchen cabinet with glasses

Herbs in the pantry

More Pantry herbs

Cups, saucers and bowls in the kitchen cabinet. My mom served us ice cream in the 1960's in those very same lotus shaped bowls, second shelf at right

Pots and pans in the kitchen

Many are confused about O’Keeffe’s presence in Abiquiu, and may ask what’s what. There are two homes, one in the village of Abiquiu, the other up the road westward to Ghost Ranch. The home at Ghost Ranch has not been open to the public, but there is some buzz that this may happen in the near future. Tours of the house in Abiquiu are arranged and booked online, the link to which is below. I highly recommend the “Behind the Scenes Tour”, which shows you much more. I also recommend these books for further information and photos of the two homes: 
“Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses, Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu” Barbara B Lynes & Agapita J Lopez 2012, 
“Georgia O’Keeffe, Living Modern” Wanda Corn 2017, 
“O’Keeffe at Abiquiu” Myron Wood & Christine T Patten.

Horseshoe facing up to catch the luck (Miss O'Keeffe's wish for rainfall)

Volcanic rock grinding stone

Datura or Jimson Weed wilting

Jimson Weed/Datura flowers

Not quite open and almost finished Jimson weed

The one single book which O'Keeffe left on the coffee table. This book contains some of O'Keeffe's first thoughts in an interview about her paintings through the years, the book is a large format but a must for O'Keeffe fans.

We’ve been to the Abiquiu house at least 5 times through the years (my wife reminds me that we've been there much more than this), the first visit was during the first year of tours and on the occasion of my birthday in mid-March. Family and friends visiting us in Taos ask that we put this on the agenda during their visits, the tour has always left us dreamy and inspired. There have also been a number of opportunities to see O’Keeffe artworks in various exhibitions not only at the O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. 

O'Keeffe at Abiquiu book with Apples from the garden, plate by KC Hossack Pottery

The banco in O'Keeffe's living room has a niche for the vertebrae of a snake, there's also a sculpture of a snake with stones 

The banco has been recreated recently in a passageway room at the O'Keeffe Museum, the book at top right is the catalogue from the Tate Modern retrospective 

Herbs drying in the shepherds room

During the O’Keeffe exhibit Art, Image, Style at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA I was able to bring my niece Courtney to the opening and a few days later I brought my mom Etta to see the exhibit, grateful that I could make this happen. In London the O’Keeffe Retrospective at Tate Modern allowed me to bring several of my family members to see that exhibit a few years ago. My sister fell in love with the black door paintings which O’Keeffe painted of her house in Abiquiu, which led us to visit the house in Abiquiu when they visited from London last year.

The Shepherds bed above a corner horno fireplace with American flag

Window in the shepherds room with gathered herbs

The table of gathered herbs in the shepherds room just off the kitchen. I may need to acquire a Black & White Buffalo Plaid bolt of cloth like this...

Each time we’ve been to the house in Abiquiu we notice different elements. There’s always something to see, not that they change things around (they actually do, if you refer to images of interiors in the books I suggested) but that even though it seems sparse at first glance the setting is quite rich and full of uniquely thoughtfully placed pieces. Everything works in a lovely harmony, I can’t wait to return again. The Garden Party allowed us to move slowly at our own pace and take the time we needed to look.

Fireplace in the office off the bookroom

O'Keeffe Sculpture through the garden window

Jade tree with sculpture through window

Sculpture in shadow

Back courtyard ladder

Central courtyard with walkway

It was an honor to attend this event and so many other O’Keeffe-ian moments with family and friends. I hope you’ll make your own precious O’Keeffe memories, whether it be a picnic at Ghost Ranch or a walk at the White Place. The complete O'Keeffe trinity is Taos, Abiquiu and Santa Fe. I’m planning a special event tour of all things O’Keeffe in Taos coming up, date to be announced soon. There is much more in Taos regarding Georgia O'Keeffe than is given credit to, it has been 90 years since O'Keeffe first visited the Southwest and Taos where she was first inspired by all she saw.

O'Keeffe office with antlers over entryway

Central courtyard with walkway and one of two sculptures

Rounded side view of house from the garden with shadows of corn stalks

Back entryway and walkway

Entryway to studio

Back entry to studio

Bells hanging in Russian sage tree outside studio

Twin Sculptures by O'Keeffe

Panoramic view of courtyard with twin abstract sculptures


Through the gardeners passageway

Tools hanging in the passageway

Shelf of random objects

We truly were blissed out in Abiquiu, a quote from Miss O’Keeffe sums things up nicely “…and I hope they will ask us again some other time.”

Keyhole & doorknob 

When a horseshoe is hung this way it is to pour luck onto visitors, facing upwards is to collect luck

A single scissor handle in the wall of the passageway still perplexes me



Blue Corn

These two Mayan pottery heads are embedded into the adobe walls in a passageway, they are on opposite sides I've put them together here for convenience. I'd never noticed them before.

The carport door entryway

Ram Skull with stone on standing beam

Though the entryway of the carport

Sideview Ram Skull

Sideview Elk Skull

Though the carport

Elk Skull study

Holly in the carport

Carport with door closed


Hue-Chan Karels & Open Kitchen

Gruet Champagne 

Welcome Center direct phone line 505-685-4625

The Alexander Girard limited edition pillow reproduction 1972 International Love Heart design, was gifted to us for becoming new members of the O'Keeffe Museum. Girard gave Georgia O'Keeffe a pillow with a similar design as a token of their friendship, which is still in the house to this day.

Holly on our anniversary at the O'Keeffe Museum

My favorite, the Kachina Paintings at the O'Keeffe Museum

Large scale black sculpture in the garden at the O'Keeffe Research Center in Santa Fe

Ram Horn drawing with sculptures and study at the O'Keeffe Museum

Though the big gate

Holly outside the O'Keeffe house at the overview

Looking over the wall at the O'Keeffe house. There's no need to only see the house from this view, book a tour sometime soon

Miss O'Keeffe and Miss Holly with Elk skull (diptych)