It is very uncommon for an artist to visit the Taos region in New Mexico and not be amazed at the structure of the beautiful San Francisco de Assisi Church. The building was also known as 'Ranchos Church' was made in the early 1800s and is the only original church still standing in the area. One thing that has grown throughout the church’s life is its spiritual importance to the people of the surrounding community. Other than the more obviously interesting structural qualities of the church which include adobe contouring and sculptural buttresses, this spiritual connection to the people was also a huge inspiration for the artists that depicted it.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s description of different things is unique and therefore the legendary church is not an exemption making it very distinctive from the rest. From a series of progressive canvases that were done during the summers of 1929 and 1930, her interesting ideas of the Ranchos Church are seen. Deviating from the norm once again, Georgia decided to focus more on the sculptural aspect of the anchored church. She illustrates it as one with the land as if growing organically from the soil beneath and contrasts it against the purplish sky. All this is an attempt at portraying the spiritual character of the region, and how the church ties to it. Using the same tones on the church structure as the original provides a sort of consistency which is broken by her use of an abstract shape instead of the original.
Other great works of art of the Ranchos Church in New Mexico by artists from Englishspeaking regions, seem to focus less and less on the religious concept of the structure and instead strive to tie the culture of the Hispanic people with the land. In the progressive canvas series of the painting before the final, the union of the church to the earth beneath and the sky above, become more and more pronounced. As she progressed, she reduced the hard shadows that showed where the structure interacted with the ground making the connection even less decipherable.
The painting is approached from the rear to explore a more abstract view and even more interesting geometry of its structure. She enlarges and exaggerates this geometry and combines its contours beautifully with the surrounding to give it that aspect of continuity and oneness with nature. In the Ranchos Church, Georgia married representation and abstraction beautifully and, in the process, blurred the boundaries between manmade objects and nature. The painting is now on exhibition at The Met Fifth Avenue In gallery 765.