"I wish people were all trees and I think I could enjoy them then.”
“It's not enough to be nice in life. You've got to have nerve.”
“To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.”
"I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."
"[My home in New Mexico] was all so far away - there was quiet and an untouched feel to the country and I could work as I pleased."
"I get on pretty well with my own company."
O'Keeffe was probably not what most people would consider a friendly person. She was aloof, determined, independent and abrupt in her communication style. Perhaps she had to be, since the art establishment within which she moved was an oppressively patriarchal "good old boys club" that often made harsh, sexist and unfair judgements about her work.
However, when we see O'Keefe's paintings, we often feel a sacred energy - a love, even - that is absolutely transformative and unitive. I'm especially inspired by her New Mexico landscapes, which speak to me of the living and breathing body of the Earth, a landscape I experience as a fiercely feminine presence. In this context, O'Keeffe once exclaimed: "I am trying with all my skill to do a painting that is all of women." And yet it was not human beings that she painted. Although her human relationships may not have been characterized by effusive expressions of love or warmth, O'Keeffe WAS able to merge with beautiful landscapes, thereby becoming a powerful artistic expression of the spirituality and love inhabiting the Earth.
Lately I've been wondering: what do I contribute to the enrichment of the lives of others? Am I perceived as warm and loving? I'm not sure. I value my solitude, so I know I am often not "there" for people in the usual way. Yet I hope that my photography and intense passion to see others grow spiritually can be felt as a form of love that - like O'Keeffe's paintings - might help catapult people out and away from mundane concerns and into the realm of the ecstatic, beautiful and sacred.
Photos: A combination of my Ghost Ranch photos and O'Keefe's paintings.
For Spiritual Direction or Workshops, please visit: http://www.resourcesforspiritualgrowth.com/
Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.