Georgia’s Black Place

Written on 07/26/2019
Jeane George Weigel

As Georgia famously said, “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.”

I was so excited and inspired by discovering Georgia O’Keeffe’s White Place (see that I immediately started looking for her Black Place. But it’s farther away than Plaza Blanca and would require a road trip and a couple nights stay someplace, along with pet care while I was gone.

I located her spot because people have searched it out and written about it before. It’s northwest of Abiquiu about 150 miles. Sadly a highway has been cut through it and they’re fracking all around it. I wanted to see it before it was destroyed.

She also spent time working a few miles farther west in the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area. I was going there too.

I booked my trip and was eager. But the fact is I had to admit I just couldn’t afford to go so I cancelled.

And that’s one of the things about being an artist: I’ve sold paintings to people living all over the country and in Canada, for more than two decades, more paintings than I can remember. And even still I have not made a living.

I’m not complaining. I’ve always gotten by and this is who I was born to be. I tried other ways of being that did afford me a living but it was no use. I’m an artist. Period.

It’s why parents want their artistic children to be art teachers and not artists—or better yet corporate execs!

But I think most of us will acknowledge that art is a huge part of what makes us human. It helps us to feel: amazement, compassion, beauty…  Art expands us.

And so artists continue to be born so that art can be. Some centuries supported them with guilds, or they had benefactors, patrons. These days we’re on our own.

All of these thoughts circling around Georgia’s Black and White Places made me think of the two in terms of our human experience. Yin and yang, shadow and light, pain and joy, difficulty and ease.

And this made me think about Georgia herself. I mean, obviously, her circumstances were very different from mine. She was married to a famous mover in the New York art world. And she became famous and collected herself. But even she had to scrape by sometimes I’m sure, especially in the beginning.

I’ve often said I’ve not been a devotee of Georgia’s work (although my taste for it is definitely growing) but a huge admirer of her life. She figured out who she was, an artist, and she went out into the world and defined herself.

But just the fact that she had the two named places, her White Place and her Black Place makes me believe, somehow, that she struggled too—with her difference perhaps, by needing things that “normal society” did not? I think she was lonely, if independent.

And I think these two places depict her struggles. The very idea that she found them, visited them over and over, painted them numerous times, named them so starkly, makes me feel that these two places were profound for her. Almost gate posts with all the other works falling in between.

I wonder, did they hold her up in some way when it got tough, just having them there? Did painting them allow her to examine her own darkness, celebrate her own light?

All I know is that it’s no accident she had the two right there near her home in Abiquiu.

I recently finished reading a book titled The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. In it whenever an artist is born an angel is sent along to watch over them throughout their lives. I love that idea.

Georgia’s angel may have known that she needed to be able to reach out and touch the dark and the light. So she was given her Black Place and her White Place. And Abiquiu for everything in between.

It is a privilege to live the life I live—to be different, to be an artist. I would love to see France and Italy before I die (and Georgia’s Black Place) and my art will likely not take me there. But I will willingly miss those things this time around for the truthfulness, honestness, the goodness, the integrity of putting brush to canvas, pallet knife to paint. And all the magic that is inherent in that.

Love to you all,