New Mexico by Maddy Minnis

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My first experience seeing Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings come to life in the badlands of New Mexico bent my mind. It put a buzz inside me and hooked me in an instant. I was only passing through on a road trip but ended up staying for four years. Then I got a wild hair and moved into my car to travel full-time. New Mexico is known as the land of both enchantment and entrapment. So it is no surprise that after a year on the road it called me back, this time even closer to the badlands which drew me there in the first place. I was living in a cabin near Abiquiu, an area cocooned in the landscapes that inspired so many of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings and a place she would eventually call home. One evening I went to an art exhibit featuring a local photographer, Walter Nelson, who for years has been capturing the actual landscapes behind some of her most famous works. His series on display was focused on a desolate stretch of hills O’Keeffe had dubbed The Black Place. I suddenly realized that I had known of The Black Place for years but had never tried to find it. Walter offered to take me there but the discovery is so much of the fun for me. So over the next few weeks I started prowling Google and scanning satellite imagery until I found what had to be it. I drove in cursing the pipelines and praising their dirt roads that saved me miles of hiking. Though my 4WD was certainly easier than the Model A that O’Keeffe used to navigate the arroyos, I still felt myself making the same kind of pilgrimage. O’Keeffe would travel 150 miles from her home at Ghost Ranch. She would endure all the same desert extremes, drawn by something that was true to her, and set up camp for days out there. I imagine the “hardships” of an immersive experience in this place were as insignificant to her as they were to me. I simply lose myself in the vast desert quiet of a place that is as much an escape as it is a coming home. Or as she put it, “Such a beautiful, untouched, lonely-feeling place—part of what I call the Far Away.”

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All images © Maddy Minnis
Text by Maddy Minnis