Art and Design Rebel

I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me – shapes and ideas so near to me – so natural to my way of being and thinking . . . I decided to start anew, to strip away what I had been taught.

– Georgia O’Keeffe

I spent the last ten days in Northern New Mexico. Despite the dozens of times I have driven the Low Road to Taos, I am, and forever will be, awestruck by this place. The unexpected shapes, shadows, colors, textures, light, and downright drama of the brilliant peaks of the Sangre de Christo Mountains to my right and the huge dark crack of the Rio Grande Gorge to my left, never fail to take my breath away.

I relish my annual journey to the high desert where the Mabel Dodge Luhan House awaits at the edge of the Pueblo Indian reservation. There, in an old light-filled studio where I journey every fall for the past twenty years to convene with creative people from all over the planet, I indeed feel at home. I eat, sleep and paint simply to express my creativity, in the 100-year-old adobe where famous artists, writers and thinkers have come to experience the high desert landscape and enduring native society of Taos Pueblo.

Georgia

Red Hills and Perdanal, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1936
Red Hills and Perdanal, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1936

In the summer of 1929, Georgia O’Keeffe arrived at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House on the first of many trips to Northern New Mexico. Although she had studied traditional realist painting at the Art Institute of Chicago and Art Students League in New York, she was inspired by the stark landscape, distinct indigenous art, and unique regional style of adobe architecture.

I was fortunate to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe this trip and was struck by the difference between her earlier drawings and the change in structure and style of her paintings in New Mexico. They contain shapes and ideas that expressed a deep personal response to the new world she found herself in, leading to her rejection of classical training.

This shift in the direction of her artwork represented a radical break with tradition.  Georgia was truly a rebel in the field of art and design as evidenced by her boldly innovative paintings and home in Abiquiu.

Design Rebel

Red Hills with White Flower, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1937
Red Hills with White Flower, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1937

O’Keeffe’s example of not following the artwork or design trends of the time confirms my own experience of rejecting the notion of conforming to trends in the current interior design world. Instead, I encourage people to explore their unique personal expression. I hope you will find your own eye for beauty as Georgia did, instead of subscribing to the current ”in” look promoted by large retailers and the “colors of the year” advertised by paint companies. Consider becoming a design rebel.

What better way to express the truth of who you are than through your unique creative expression in your home? The one-of-a-kind space you create will likely not become dated as trends come and go. Instead of repeatedly discarding relics from the past ”in” look  and obtaining objects from the new “in” look this radical approach to living through your own vision is not only good for you, it’s good for the planet that cannot assimilate what we constantly discard.

As a start, I suggest avoiding purchases of mass-produced items. Instead peruse antique stores or shops selling vintage one-of-a-kind furniture or accessories. Explore small local art galleries or novelty shops displaying unusual artwork, crafts, textiles and folk art. Go to estate sales, consignment stores or art festivals to look for treasures you have never seen before. Seek out small independent furniture makers who may offer new choices. Buy only what you fall in love with – something that is exceptionally pleasing to your eye, speaks to your soul or evokes meaning in your life.

Art and Nature as Teachers of Creativity

Gate of an Adobe Church, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1939
Gate of an Adobe Church, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1939

Looking at art is a wonderful way to discover what shapes, colors, patterns and textures you resonate with. Observe these adjacent examples of O’Keeffe’s artwork. What colors attract your eye? Which shapes are you drawn to? Does your eye like contrast? Repetitive patterns? Straight or curved lines, or a combination of both? Take advantage of local art openings or visit art galleries when you travel to develop your eye for beauty.

Also consider traveling to new landscapes or cityscapes which can inspire your creativity as it did Georgia’s, who divided her time between New York City and New Mexico. She is not only known for her radical paintings of animal bones and flowers but for her Modernist paintings of New York City skyscrapers.

During my trip to the high desert I saw a magnificent double rainbow, whimsical white clouds with fluffy pink edges casting a shadow on periwinkle blue mountains, a lime colored vine with red and green leaves clinging to a caramel-colored adobe, raspberry pink geraniums in a shiny silver can hung against a rough cobalt blue wall, and big black and white magpies fluttering around a cluster of brilliant yellow chamisa.

As Georgia did so beautifully, open your eyes and observe the celebration of creativity in the beauty all around you.  It can appear in an instant to inspire you!

Pink and Yellow Hollyhocks, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1952
Pink and Yellow Hollyhocks, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1952
Showing 10 comments
  • Jackie
    Reply

    Beautiful! I loved every word, and all the O’Keeffe works you posted are ones I have never seen. Quite inspiring!

    • Linda Applewhite
      Reply

      Thanks jack,jack,jack!! Loved your post and you too!!!

  • Joan
    Reply

    Linda,
    Such a true glimpse into the eye and heart of an artist…in anything! I have enjoyed O’Keefe’s eye for as long as I remember. As a watercolor artist (still learning), I especially love her “outsider” practice of her art. We all have our own style, and I definitely admire the REBELS!! Thank you for this posting!

  • Peggy Conner
    Reply

    Hi Linda, Although I live in Santa Fe, I’ve never been as aware of the beauty around me as I am now. Thank you for your artist’s eye and soul.

  • Sue Lennon Berry
    Reply

    Looking forward to my first visit to Santa Fe next month now more than ever!
    Sue

  • Sue Lennon Berry
    Reply

    Looking forward to my first Santa Fe visit next month more than ever! Thank you for your beautiful descriptions.
    Sue

  • sara barnwell
    Reply

    Lovely.

  • Marsha Butler
    Reply

    Thank you Linda. How beautiful😩

  • Kathleen Martinez
    Reply

    Hi Linda, Thank you for inspiring me to go back to my foundation as an artist first a designer second. I am a native New Mexican who has followed your designs since I attended a workshop you did in Santa Fe years ago.

  • Lynn
    Reply

    Linda, your approach is so spot on and is magnificent advice about taking time to look closely, as O’Keefe did. Your work always inspires me and encouraging others to support local artists and artisans is truly reflected in your designs. These recent posts on the design rebel idea are exactly the type of thing I try to teach my composition students – it is all about learning to pay attention and following one’s own path. Thank you for your words of inspiration!

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