At the turn of the 20th century, Georgia O’Keeffe was an inspirational artist and she paved the way for women artists who had only previously been seen as ‘subjects of art’.

A woman of her own mind O’Keeffe was one of the first artists to embrace abstract art. She was well known for her characteristic colours and attention to tones and in the 1920’s she started to use oils instead of her once favoured watercolours. She found she could convey a meaningful expression of her ideas and feelings through her visual abstract language.

The Back Mesa Landscape is in New Mexico, a place where she was motivated to paint many of her famous artworks. She was well known for her beautiful portrayals of flowers and New York skyscrapers, but she was deeply moved by the New Mexico landscapes.

She spent 20 years using rocks and bones from the desert to arouse her abstract thoughts. Her ‘American Modernism’ style captured the unique formations and colours of the Black Mesa Landscape. She said, “I found I could say things with colours and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.”

Mesa means tableland in Spanish and Portuguese. It is an area of land raised high above sea level that has a flat top with steep cliffs that surround the ‘geological wonder’. Wildlife, including golden eagles, mountain lions and 61 species of butterflies inhabit the wild and beautiful Black Mesa Landscape that Georgia O’Keeffe had been transfixed on, creating the dramatic effects with colours, textures and shapes for the paintings that are now revered.

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.”