Art Reflections

Georgia O’Keeffe and The History of Earth Day

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.” – Georgia O’Keeffe

O'Keeffe - Red AmaryllisEarth Day embodies Georgia O’Keeffe’s prophetic quote. How could she know upon uttering those words that the Earth Day movement birthed on April 22, 1970, generations would move to protest the horrors done to the Earth while raising the rallying cry – and acting – to protect it.

Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson – who was a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin at the time – had the idea after witnessing the destruction the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill had on the land and the ocean. The time was right and the country’s mindset was ripe to reap the heightened awareness of pollution – and environmental protection.

On that very first Earth Day 42 years ago, an astounding 20 million Americans came out to attend events and rallies in streets, parks, universities and other venues in support of creating a healthy and lasting environment for generations to come.

The first Earth Day led to the creation of the EPA (the Environmental Protection Agency), and the passage of the trifecta of protection acts: The Clean Air Act, The Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

Georgia O’Keeffe (November 18, 1887 – March 6, 1986) was one of America’s finest painters. In the early part of her career, O’Keeffe was known for her paintings of flowers such as Oriental Poppies, Black and Purple Petunias, and her New Mexico landscapes.

O’Keeffe visited New Mexico several times throughout her life, and in 1946 after her husband famous photographer and gallery owner Alfred Stieglitz passed away, she moved to the Land of Enchantment permanently.

While at the 21,000 acre Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico (65 miles northwest of Santa Fe), O’Keeffe forged a deeply personal and spiritual connection to the landscape. Ghost Ranch (or El Rancho de los Brujos) was named for the whispers of ghosts, haunting from evil spirits and the legends of many hangings on the land.

Georgia O’Keeffe had no such qualms of ghosts or otherwise otherworldly happenings. However, O’Keeffe’s cow skull design is Ghost Ranch’s official logo. Her creation through inspiration was unmatched, and her paintings of the striking colors and big sky of the high desert were unmatched.

Was she an ecofeminist? Perhaps. An educated answer would be “Yes.” How could she not be? Her brilliant flowers and vibrant landscapes are all the proof required – a reminder that Earth Day is as relevant now – if not more so – than it was that first time 42 years ago.

About the Author

I was raised in Wichita, KS and I have been drawing and painting as long as I can remember. I paint the interior of my house according to the season and could not imagine a world without colors. I am a writer, mother, and grandmother - My motto in life has always been "Any day you wake up is going to be a good day".