Sally Mann has said that "part of the artists job is to make the commonplace singular, to project a different interpretation onto the conventional." We go to a garden, and we can even sit on a bench to be surrounded by the beauty of the flowers and the trees, and we think how peaceful it is to just sit, and be. Do we notice the kinds of trees or the colors of the flowers? Often we don't, so caught up in the moment of being that everything around is there, but not. On the far side is a window, it stands out because the bright blue is in such contrast to the sun-bleached stucco walls. Tall grass wisps add contour and obscure a bench built into the wall. There is nothing else but the textures of the wood and wall, and the grass blowing in the breeze. This is simplicity; this is solitude. This is a moment of clarity.
This picture was taken in the courtyard of the Georgia O'Keeffee Museum Research Center opposite the Museum in Santa Fe. I didn't get to visit her home and studio in Abiquiu, but I can image that this is a little space carved out of that. While the summer trees and flowers were beautiful, and sitting in the garden was a perfect top-off to a wonderful morning in the museum, it was this ostensibly empty corner that grabbed my attention. As Mann observed, there could be no sight more commonplace or singular than a solitary window facing out onto a bench caught between two walls. This space brought to life, for me, a description of the houses found in the village of Anton Chico, 86mi to the southeast of Santa Fe on a hill overlooking the Pecos River. There, when the village really came into its own before the Civil War, the house were large, built in the patio style. Within the patios the women planted huertos, fruit trees and flowers. Surrounding the haciendas were high walls constructed of rock found in the local area and adobe providing both a courtyard and a corral. Here, I could imagine our Hispanic ancestors and their large families, prospering in those early years before the war and the European migration changed the landscape completely.