Ranchos Church, New Mexico
Oil on canvas
24 1/4 x 36 in.
signed and dated on canvas, in white paint: Georgia O'Keeffe-1930
u.l. in graphite on stretcher: Wickser 4M
u.c. in graphite on original backing board: 547 . 1:58
u.c. in graphite: Ranch church-Grey Sky 1930
u.c. in graphite on frame: O'Keefe [sic]
u.r. in graphite on stretcher: #9
c.l. in black crayon on original backing board: 26.2:39 [see file for photo of original backing board and labels]
l.l. in graphite on frame: Stieglitz's #28
l.l. in graphite on stretcher: #9 #10 #289
Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas
In the summer of 1929, O’Keeffe made her first of many trips to Taos, New Mexico, where the eighteenth-century mission church of St. Francis of Assisi became one of her favorite subjects to paint. She always depicted the church from the rear to explore the abstract, geometric qualities of its architecture—exaggerating its massive square apse and blocky rectangular buttresses. By enlarging these forms and merging their contours within the landscape and sky, the artist suggests that the church is an organic extension of the earth.
Like her fellow artists and friends Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley, O’Keeffe blurred the lines between representation and abstraction. With Ranchos Church, she also erased the boundaries between the natural and the humanmade.
How might an artist be inspired by an environment or a setting?
What makes a building a source of inspiration to an artist? To a community?
How does a building relate to its surroundings? What story does it tell about an area’s geography, history, and culture?
Why might an artist choose to abstract a scene rather than to create a more representational, or realistic, depiction?
How might artists inspire each other to depict a subject matter similarly or differently?
Students will create a sensory poem inspired by Ranchos Church. While looking at the work of art, they should imagine they are physically in this space and consider how they would experience the place through various senses.
- I smell ...
- I hear ...
- I feel ...
- I see ...
- I taste ...
Students will choose a building or place they find inspiring and write a brief paragraph explaining why they chose this place. They should consider their senses when expressing how it might feel to be in this place. Pose these additional questions to students so that they may consider their perspective on the building: Where are you sitting, standing? What is its size in comparison to you? What details would you emphasize?
Draw your favorite place. Think of perspective, angle, distance, details, and surroundings.
Walk around your school, your house, or a building and notice how it appears from different angles. Sketch a part of the building that you find the most interesting.
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