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musings from the studio and beyond ~

dawn chandler’s reflections on art and life. . . .

 

santa fe september

Dawn Chandler's oil paint palette for her New Mexico landscape painting 'Santa Fe September.'

Summer has been protracted this year.

~ sigh ~

I’m ready for the days to cool and the colors to heat up into hues of fire.

Maybe sharing this painting of an earlier Santa Fe September view will entice Mother Nature to pull out her autumn colors…. (Please?)

I began this painting two years ago and worked on it off and on….

Dawn Chandler's initial steps in creating her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler starting to block out color in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler starting to add the initial cloud colors in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler building up the clouds in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler punching in the sky in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler further developing the sky in her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'
Dawn Chandler adding more touches to her New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September.'

It sat 98% finished for months. In fact at that point most people would have looked at it and deemed it 100% finished.

Dawn Chandler's New Mexico landscape oil painting 'Santa Fe September' nearly finished.

But my Muse and I just sensed that it was asking for something more… we just weren’t sure what.

And then I decided what it wanted. . . .

The sky in New Mexico landscape painting, 'Santa Fe September' oil on canvas by artist Dawn Chandler.

See that jolt of deep blue among the adobe buildings?

Detail of New Mexico landscape painting, 'Santa Fe September' oil on canvas by artist Dawn Chandler.

That’s what the painting was wanting. The overall landscape is an actual scene from a photograph I took in my neighborhood, but that patch of dark blue is a pure jolt of color from my imagination.

Finished! New Mexico landscape painting, 'Santa Fe September' oil on canvas by artist Dawn Chandler.

Think of is as a tool shed.

Better yet, think of it as a blue treasure chest — a big box of blue sky filled with dreams of New Mexico among golden cottonwoods. . . .

Autumn! I can hardly wait for you to get here!

Santa Fe September
by Dawn Chandler
oil on canvas ~ 36″ x 24″
private collection


New Mexico artist Dawn Chandler aka 'Taos Dawn' in her Santa Fe studio.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

I invite you to find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico


the moreno valley & me – part two

[This the second of a two-part series. Read the moreno valley & me, part one here.]


When my friend Carol asked me to paint their view of Baldy from the Moreno Valley, it was not the seemingly obvious view from the meadow near the main cabin that I and others had so admired.

Looking north in the Moreno Valley to the peaks of Touch-Me-Not and Baldy. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Rather it was a more private view known only to her family: The view from “The Rocks.” To give me a sense of the scene, Carol sent me several photos of the view, apologizing for their “poor quality.” “It’s hard to get a good picture up there.” One glance at her photos and I could see the challenge for a photographer and painter: the dark visually heavy diagonal wall of evergreens cutting through the lower half of the view made a sharp angular contrast against the almost ethereal distant vista.

Looking north in the Moreno Valley to Eagle Nest. Photo by Carol Munch.

Still, I thought I could work with at least a couple of her photos.

What would be ideal though would be for me to experience the view myself; to hike up there, smell the air, take in the aura and get a sense of place.

A few weeks later I drove from Santa Fe up to the Moreno Valley, and within a few moments of stepping out of my car, I was huffing after Carol through a cathedral-like park of huge old Ponderosas.

Among the ponderosas of New Mexico's Moreno valley. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

We turned into thicker woods, wildflowers dotting the piney forest floor despite the drought.

Red columbine. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Eventually the grade became steeper and rocky, when finally, after a scramble the canopy opened up and we were on “The Rocks.”

“Oh wow…..”

Northern New Mexico's Baldy Mountain and Touch Me Not. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler


Gazing north, I could immediately see why this has become a sacred place for her family. Across the red rock of the shelf and the shadowy band of evergreen and aspens lay the long, wide Moreno Valley, the flat blue shimmering mirror of Eagle Nest Lake, and rising above that, purple-blue late afternoon clouds gathering over Touch-Me-Not and Baldy. I could have sat there gazing all night.

Reluctantly we descended back down to the cabins, only to return twelve hours later to experience the light and color of morning. A cloud of white fog rose in a wide line over the lake, as Baldy and Touch-Me-Not appeared and disappeared among the clouds.

What a gift to get to experience this unique vantage on the valley, on those beloved mountains.

Morning mist rising off of Eagle Nest Lake in northern New Mexico. Photo by artist Dawn Chandler.

Over the course of many weeks, I created six oil painting from various photos of the view — the first three based on Carol’s photos, the second three based on my own. Here they are:

Moreno Valley Painting One ~ A Promise of Afternoon Rain

It’s that cloud that drew me into this one. I just loved the shape, sense of volume and presence of that cloud with its cool blue flat bottom, and the sense that it’s growing as heat and moisture build.

A Promise of Afternoon Rain, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler
Moreno Valley Painting Two ~ Midday on the Overlook

Midday is a challenging time of day to capture with paint. Bright overhead sun washes out color and minimizes shadows, thereby reducing the contrast between and definition of shapes. Knowing this, I’m a little surprised I even tackled this painting based on a midday view from The Rocks. Yet I think the painting effectively conveys the feeling of the heat of the day.

Midday on the Overlook, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Three ~ Another Beautiful Day Draws to a Close

The third painting captures early evening when the sun is sinking lower and lower, drawing the color from the shadows and it sinks down. You feel as though the heat of the day is being consumed with dark cloak of coolness. In this painting, too, you can really see the angled wall of dark trees. Squint your eyes and the painting become almost an abstraction of shadow and light.

Another Beautiful Day Draws to a Close, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Four ~ Evening Storm Breaks Over Baldy & Touch-Me-Not

Painting Four is the first of the paintings I did after visiting the location in person. Funny, but of all of the paintings in this series, it was for sure the most challenging for me. In this one I was trying to focus in a bit more on Baldy and Touch-Me-Not, as well as get some purple-grey drama going on in the sky. For the longest time I just couldn’t get the folds and colors of the mountains nor the clouds to look the way I wanted. I kept at it though, and finally — finally! — I was satisfied. Persistence paid off!

Evening Storm Breaks Over Baldy and Touch-Me-Not, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Five ~ Can You Just Smell the Rain

Painting Five is a particular favorite, because I just love the tree there on the left. And I really dig that big brooding cloud that you know is just waiting to dump some rain on the valley. I must say I think I really nailed the light in this one.

Can You Just Smell the Rain, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Six ~ Peaceful Summer Evening

When I came up with the title ‘Peaceful Summer Evening’ for this one, I was humming to myself that great Eagle’s tune Peaceful Easy Feeling** which for me was always the quintessential “days off” song during those gorgeous carefree summers working at Philmont.

This painting holds and stands for so very much of what floats in my dreams when I think of those magical New Mexico summer evenings of my youth: A view from an elevated rocky perch, which we clearly had to hike to. So as we’re standing here, our hearts are pounding a little bit from the hike, and we’re catching our breath just a wee bit. And as we breath in, we’re inhaling that unique and luscious fragrance of pine mixed with sage mixed with sunlight mixed with distant rain. We are surrounded by evergreen, but even more lovely, by aspen trees — and they’re catching the last light of day, such that their leaves are flickering bright shades of emerald and jade. And there is sky, of course. But New Mexico sky is just different from other skies. [If you know New Mexico then I know you know what I mean….]. And there are mountains, of course — but they aren’t just any mountains. For there’s Touch-Me-Not and there’s Baldy, and, well, they’re just more special to those of us who know and dream about them still…

And, well…. I just want to stand here for a long, long while, and drink in this peaceful summer evening…

Peaceful Summer Evening, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

Moreno Valley Painting Seven ~ Eric & Katie’s View

As I’ve mentioned earlier, I did these six paintings as studies for my friend Carol to consider for a potentially larger painting which would be the gift for her son and new daughter-in-law. When the sixth was completed, I sent them photos of all the paintings for their consideration.

A few weeks later the four of us had a conference call. WHOOT! They made me feel like a painting GODDESS in their ebullient praise and appreciation of my work. But…Hmmm….

Was there any chance I could do yet one more painting merging elements found in some of the studies? Could I somehow combine the expansiveness of painting number six, capture something of the rich and stormy sky in painting number four, and overall focus in on Baldy more?

[I had to chuckle (and groan slightly) that they particularly loved the sky in painting number four, because it was that damned sky that had caused me the most struggle of all the paintings!]

Ahh well….

Of course I said I would see what I could do!

The truth is I was a little nervous about trying to create, essentially, by committee. But I love a good challenge, so to help me focus on this new goal, I packed up all of my paints and headed to a secluded cabin in Colorado where I could be free of interruptions for several days and just focus on painting.

This was the perfect prescription for my Muse and me. For the painting came together incredibly quickly and dang near effortlessly. [But then… of course… it had taken me six separate paintings to be able to create the seventh!]

In the end we — all of us! — were just thrilled with the result!

Eric and Katie's View, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

The whole family made me feel like a treasured guest and a rock star painter. I am touched and honored and grateful to have gotten to spend some time with them at their Moreno Valley home. And I’m further honored to have several of these paintings hanging in the homes of various of Carol’s family.

Three of the paintings remain, however, and are now finally available on my online shop. Limited edition prints of Peaceful Summer Evening will be available this autumn. If you think you might like a print, please shoot me a message; that will help me determine how many prints to make for this special edition.

Incidentally, there is an 8th painting of the Moreno Valley that I did during this series. Only rather than being a view from The Rocks, it’s from the valley itself, of an old adobe house that caught my eye. We’re looking north toward Eagle Nest, with late springtime/early summer clouds building. Hard to paint this without sinking into a reverie of what it must have been like to live in the valley when this homestead was molded from earth and straw. Surely there’s a window on the north side where, much like their neighbors, generations have gazed upon Touch-Me-Not and Baldy?

Moreno Valley Painting Eight ~ High Desert Homestead
High Desert Homestead, Moreno Valley, New Mexico landscape painting by artist Dawn Chandler

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** For my favorite alternative rendition of Peaceful Easy Feeling, check-out the beautiful late Kate Wolf singing it here. To discover my OTHER “quintessential day’s off song” join me for Tuesday Dawnings next week. 😉

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Artist Dawn Chandler enjoying coffee and journalling time by the Rio Grande.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings!
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.

I invite you to find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here. And please consider joining me for Tuesday Dawnings, my weekly deep breath of uplift, insight, contemplation & creativity. Learn more about it here.

~ Dawn Chandler
Santa Fe , New Mexico

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the moreno valley & me, part one

Looking south across Eagle Nest Lake from the pass of Hwy 64. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

The first time I entered and crossed the Moreno Valley was in July, 1982. I had just completed a Rayado Trek at Philmont. My brothers were both working as Rangers at Philmont that summer along with some other Scouting friends from back home. My parents and another family — close friends of ours — had spent early July road-tripping across Colorado, when they dipped into New Mexico to pick me up after Rayado. (As a notable aside, my parents had been my advisors for a Philmont trek in 1980, and this other couple had been my crew advisors in 1981). The plan was that from New Mexico we would go on to southwestern Colorado to backpack for a week in the Wiminuche Wilderness of the San Juans — which we did.

The Chandler Family, c.1982.

And so one sunny morning in mid-July of 1982, our family and friends caravanned west to make our way from Cimarron for a late breakfast at some supposedly renown eatery in Taos. This, then, for me was to be a day of many “firsts” — my first drive down Cimarron and Taos Canyons; my first time in Taos; my first breakfast at Michael’s Kitchen.
And, as I said, my first encounter with the Moreno Valley which, to this 17-year-old Jersey Girl, was by far the largest, widest valley I’d ever seen.

Highway 64 is the artery crossing the Moreno Valley, entering from the northeast as it zigzags down from that high pass and skirts the north rim of Eagle Nest Lake, before circling around to head south.

Topo map of the Moreno Valley.

To the east are the mountains of Philmont; to the west the dark hills crumple and fold upwards to Wheeler — New Mexico’s crowning peak.

Eventually on that same side of the road you’ll spot a remarkable piece of architecture — the first and for the longest time the ONLY (and surely one of the most beautiful) memorials to the Vietnam War. Just a little way further down the highway, to the southeast lies the Village of Angel Fire.

Looking south toward Angel Fire on Hwy 64 in the Moreno Valley. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

But right about here — before you leave the valley and enter the western mountains that will eventually lead you to Taos, you want to turn around and look north. For that’s when you’ll see what so many of my friends and I love to see: The long hump of Touch Me Not, and beyond that, rising to 12,441 feet, the rounded rocky summit of Baldy Mountain, Philmont’s highest peak, crowning over Eagle Nest Lake, the Moreno Valley, and the dreams of so many of us.

Looking north toward Baldy Mt. on Hwy 64 in the Moreno Valley. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

Last year I had occasion to reflect deeply on the Moreno Valley. For it was about a year ago when a Philmont friend contacted me about doing a special painting. My friend Carol comes from a long lineage of Philmonters, she herself being one of that early awesome sisterhood: the first generation of women Rangers of the early 1970s. [READ: GODDESSES] I had the great good fortune of getting to know Carol in 2015 when she joined our all women “Sole Sister” crew for a week-long Philmont Staff Association trek. Prior to our trek, Carol was a bit mysterious to me: one of those inspiring Philmont legends I’d mostly heard about over the years but had never met. It was a dream come true to get to hike with this legend (among several others) — for a whole week!

PSA Sole Sister Crew 712 PS6 2015 getting ready for a week-long backpacking trek at Philmont.

Part of what had added to Carol’s mystique for me was the awareness that her family had for years owned a family compound over in the Moreno Valley. A place where, back in the 1970s, when Carol and her siblings dominated the staff roster, there would be frequent staff gatherings on days’ off. By the time I came on staff on the 1980s, Carol and her family had mostly moved on with their lives, and their family compound parties of the 70s became the stuff of legends; a place for me of mysterious fascination. And — alas — a place, too, I likely would never get to see, since I didn’t know the family beyond acquaintance.

Just imagine the excitement when, after our PSA trek, Carol suggested our Sole Sister crew have a celebratory “end of trail” feast at the compound.
I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight.That dinner was magical, for all the reasons that a celebratory feast after a long and wonderful hike is magical. Once strangers, now united in community, in friendship. A sisterhood spanning ages, spanning shapes and sizes, spanning different roots, dreams, futures. All gathered around a rustic table celebrating each other, our community, the land, and our journey together. But also magical for the history — for the stories — of that place. To learn from Carol how her family first acquired a parcel under the trees all those decades ago. To see the shape of history of love tacked and tapestried on every wall, every shelf, in every piece of furniture.

And then those guestbooks.

To pore over page after page of those 1970s summers and recognize with glee so many names of friends and heroes and dear ones.

Philmont summer staff guestbook page c. 1980.
Another Philmont summer staff guestbook page c. 1980.

And then…. oh yes, and then…. to pull ourselves away from the books of signatures and step outside and walk to the edge of the pines , look out across meadows and down that long valley…. to Baldy Mountain.

What a view.

A gorgeous Moreno Valley view, looking north toward Baldy and Touch-Me-Not. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

That view is why Carol was contacting me about this time last year.

Her son was going to be getting married that summer and the ceremony was to be at the family compound in the Moreno Valley.

She wanted to give the bride and groom a special, meaningful gift…

And so she wanted to ask me: Might I consider painting their view of Baldy?

{ To be continued…. }

letting go of home

Dawn Chandler's childhood home in central New Jersey.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019 would have been my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary.

It’s also the day that I learned my childhood home has been destroyed.

My home of 42 years.

My tiny bedroom with the astonishing bookshelves wrapping around two walls and concealing a secret passage into another room, all meticulously handcrafted by my father. How many hours of labor and love he put into those each evening after returning home from the hospital. How many weekends were spent hauling boards up two flights of stairs from his workshop in the basement to my little room at the end of the hall.

The study, where my father spent many a night peering into his microscope and dictating into a tape-recorder. Where he planned Appalachian Trail adventures for family, friends and Scouts and later, tandem bicycle excursions with his beloved across the back roads of New Jersey, New England, France. Where, if they ever had anything serious to discuss, my parents retired to converse in private. I never, ever heard them raise their voices to each other — in that room or any other.

Every hallway… every bedroom…every bathroom, lined with books. Books. Books. Everywhere, books.

The large screened-in porch off the dining room and kitchen, where we supped every meal from May to September. Where Thanksgiving leftovers were kept in cold storage. Where the best naps in the world were had lounging on the long glider. Where my mother would sit at the long table my father had built, always in the chair to the left, closest to the kitchen’s Dutch door. Here she read the paper each summer morning, her tea turning cold as she became absorbed in a story while scratching the ear of a beloved dog sitting dotingly beside her.

The living-room with its enormous stone fireplace and stone mantel — as long as my father was tall and surely ten times as heavy. Where my brothers and I learned to build a dependable fire and then, by its warmth, know the pleasure of conversation by flamelight.

The dining room where lively conversation sparkled among wine glasses and beer steins, mugs of cider and impossibly strong black coffee and Red Rose tea. Where on winter weekends pages of the Sunday New York Times were made sticky with maple syrup from my father’s “justly famous” sourdough pancakes.

The kitchen.
All those apple pies… loaves of breads… Tollhouse cookies.

Those dozen rooms vibrating over four decades with symphonies and sonatas, cantatas and operas, vespers and bluegrass, rock and roll and folk, all from speakers wired throughout the house.

The root cellar transformed into wine cellar, pungent of earth and must, curtained in cobwebs, its dirt floor covered with corks and bottle leads from hundreds of dark green bottles from France.

The fieldstone front stoop where my mother would sip her afternoon tea and sort through mail while she waited for us to walk home from the school bus.

Fragrant paths that lead to hidden forts, hidden hideaways.

The goat barn, where my mother’s natural gift of animal whispering came to life as she assisted my brother with his small herd of French Alpines.

My father’s near acre of vegetable garden.

The old stone wall.

The tractor trail where we spent snow days sledding, Surely it was a mile long!

The berm that became a firing range, where my brothers and I learned to respect firearms.

The daffodils. The lilac. The forsythia.

The Lily of the Valley.

Mint for iced tea…..and gin and tonics.

The sandpile under the crabapple.

The chestnut trees. The dogwood. The willow.
The magnolia. The birch. The maple. The sycamore.

The hemlocks.

The holly.

The Christmas trees.

Four decades of Christmas trees planted each year in the early days of January, in holes dug in late autumn in anticipation of another addition to the arboretum of our yard. By the time the house was sold in 2006, our Christmas tree from 1965 — our first year in the house — soared with so many others high above the attic roof.

The pool where my brothers and I and any number of our friends learned to swim. Where we had nighttime games of Marco Polo, bats skimming our heads. And where, in my college years, I became lusciously acquainted with the sensuousness of midnight solo skinnydips.

All gone.

We knew this was coming. With my mother’s breast cancer and my father’s leukemia (which at that point was still asymptomatic and more of a nuisance than a daily worry) my parents had come to the realization that the house and property were just too much for them to manage by themselves anymore. That the time had come for them to sell the house and move into a nearby retirement community.
The man who bought the property just before the market tanked in 2008 had plans to “develop” it. And with its perfect proximity to New York and Philadelphia — each about an hour’s drive in opposite directions — you could pretty much bet that they were going to be McMansions.

But for twelve years after it sold, the house sat as it had pretty much always been, shaded by majestic trees, set back from the main road, with various families renting it here and there.

And I guess I wanted to believe that it would always remain there that way in the shade.
That maybe the developer would by some astounding miracle have a change of heart, and let this house that was such a beautifully tapestried home and haven continue to stand in perpetuity as a testament to lives well lived and a deeply happy and respectful marriage.

Of course all of that does still remain — if only in our hearts and memories.

 

And maybe that’s enough.

 

It has to be.

 

Watercolor sketch of artist Dawn Chandler's childhood home.
watercolor sketch of my childhood & deepest heart’s home . . . in central New Jersey
. . . painted wednesday evening, 19 june 2019 . . .

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Artist Dawn Chandler at the age of 4ish taking control of the situation.

Still bossy after 50+ years, Dawn Chandler is an artist and avid outdoorswoman who celebrates life and her love of nature via her writing, photography and most especially through her traditional & abstract landscape paintings. She feels blessed every day to live in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Learn more about Dawn, her art and her story on her website at taosdawn.com. Or simply go here for a quick link to shop her art.

georgia o’keeffe & me

My first time visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was in 1997, soon after they opened.

Yesterday was my first time back.

Outside the Georgia OKeeffe Museum, Santa Fe. Photo by Dawn Chandler.

Did I mention the Georgia O’Keeffe museum is two miles from my house?

Yet it took me twenty-two years to walk through the doors again.

Two decades!

Georgia O'Keeffe 1988 MET retrospective poster

Yes. I’m pretty embarrassed by that. And really, I can’t tell you why it took me so long. There’s a list of poor excuses. Part of the blame may be because my first visit there — right when they opened — I was unimpressed.
With the arrogant air of a freshly minted MFA student who had experienced the massive 1988 O’Keeffe retrospective in a real museum in a real city, I was oh so quick to judge. This Santa Fe building? This museum? This was…. oh so quaint….

And, well…. I just never made it back. Which is kind of shameful for one who loves museums.

It wasn’t a decision not to go back.

It just didn’t ever happen. Part of that was the Truth that we so often don’t visit the sites in our own town. Why that is, I don’t know, but it’s likely because we figure we have all the time in the world to go, but then never make the point of going!

Then there’s lazy stinginess: If I’m going to pay $2 to park downtown, well, I have more urgent priorities ( like, ummm…. going herehere…. here…. and here ).

Then there’s the fact that somewhere in the middle of those two decades I read a biography of O’Keeffe that left me with a sour impression. I got the sense that the woman was kind of unpleasant. Really though, that probably reveals more about me at the time of my reading that particular bio than it says about her. Or maybe it says more about the tone of the biographer than of O’keeffe’s essence.

But mostly I hadn’t made it back to the O’Keeffe Museum because I felt I already knew a lot about her and was already familiar with her work. Seemed like everywhere you looked there was her art featured on a poster….

Georgia O'Keeffe poster for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival 1978.

So I didn’t feel a particular need to see more of it in person any time soon.

Yet please don’t think these “negatives” mean I disliked her work. Quite the contrary, I had always rather admired her work. In fact, there was a time about a decade ago when, on the other side of the globe in an autumnal European City, Georgia O’Keeffe carried me back home to New Mexico.

Still, I didn’t go to the O’Keeffe museum.

Till yesterday. Yesterday I went.

It was splendid.

Museum exhibit banner of Georgia Okeeffe carrying a canvas outside

And I’m kicking myself for taking so long to get back there. Indeed, my sophomoric dismissal of the museum 22 years ago says a whole lot more about me and my snooty attitude than it served as a worthy critique of the fledgling museum.
Now, in the two decades since, the museum and its collection has grown into a marvelous center for viewing and exploring creativity in general and of one of the great artists of the 20th century in particular.

Walking into the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum was like walking into the salon of a friend — a sister. A compatriot. Simpatica.

I felt like she was speaking to me — directly to me — through her paintings, her sketches, her collections of brushes, tubes of paints and sticks of color; her desert bones.

Georgia O'Keeffe, 'Untitled' (Red and Yellow Cliffs), oil on canvas, 1940.
Georgia O'Keeffe, Untitled (Abstraction), black pen on paper, 1963/64
Georgia OKeeffe's paint brushes.
Rattlesnake skeleton displayed in banco at Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

Through her work she was saying to me It’s OK — what you’re doing with your work is OK — it’s all OK.

OK meaning perfect.

OK meaning just right.

For here is what struck me particularly, what I wrote in my journal there in the last gallery of the museum late yesterday afternoon:

Dawn Chandler's notes in her journal when visiting the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum

OK meaning keep doing what you’re doing.

OK meaning keep on looking, keep on listening, keep on noting, keep on painting.

I was struck by the fact that she didn’t seem to be haunted by critics pushing her to choose between styles and interests. That she painted her version of “traditional” landscapes with just as much studied interest as she painted her abstractions. If those critical voices tried to haunt her, she left them like bones to dry out in the desert.

OK meaning keep on with your “traditional” “representational” landscapes.

Georgia OKeeffe 'Black Mesa Landscape, New Mexico/Out Back of Marie's II, oil on canvas, 1930

OK meaning keep on with your abstractions.

Georgia O'Keeffe 'Blue-A' oil on canvas, 1959

OK meaning keep on loving and painting and celebrating your cranes. Your clouds. Your skies. Your words. Your sketches. Your hearts. Your everything.

OK meaning just keep on keeping on.

And, while you’re at it, sanctify your blessed, creative solitude, your focus. Turn off the phone.

Carry a sketchbook.

Always.

Honor your creativity. Your vision.

And Be.
Present.

Dawn Chandler's digital grid of several Georgia OKeeffe paintings from the Georgia OKeeffe Museum in Santa Fe.

psssst: To my Tuesday Dawnings subscribers — keep an eye out for my next edition for some O’Keeffe-inspired sketchbook musings!
Not yet signed up for Tuesday Dawnings? Go here for more info.

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Artist Dawn Chandler enjoying coffee and journalling time by the Rio Grande.

Thank you for reading my blog and appreciating my musings.
If you enjoy my posts and know others who might enjoy them too, please feel free to share this.
~ Dawn Chandler

You can find more of my stories, insights and art here on my website, www.taosdawn.com, as well as on Instagram and Facebook. Peruse and shop for my art here, and sign up for Tuesday Dawnings weekly deep breath of uplift & insight here.

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