I turned 51 last month, moved to a new house in a new town, and basically am empty nesting it these days. With all of the big life changes, my emotions, reflections, and thoughts about life have been sort of all over the place lately.
When my car got stolen last August, it was the worst time possible to buy a car. As I thought about buying a car, I started thinking about a Jeep. Now I always do this. I ALWAYS test drive jeeps if I'm looking for a car. Then talk myself out of it and buy a "sensible" car. But this time felt different. I was going to have to wait 3 or 4 months, and by the time I got the new one, I would be " IN" my 50's. And for crying out loud, my Kia Soul was stolen... Maybe the universe was trying to tell me I needed a Jeep.
So I got one. And yes, it may be a midlife crisis, but I don't care!! She's blue, a manual, canvas top, FRICKING AMAZING Jeep.. I love going anywhere and everywhere in her. I cannot wait to try out the four wheel drive and go off roading to find that perfect spot to paint when it warms up. As I was thinking about what to name my blue girl, I thought of another woman who took off across the countryside with her paints and canvases. Georgia O'Keefe.. In fact, two years ago I went on a solo trip from Missouri to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico , to see the landscapes she painted for myself. Read it here.
Georgia would take off in her model A Ford, camp out under the stars and paint all day in the sun. If it rained, she propped up a canvas. She's my hero. But not only because of that. She was a child born in the 19th century, to a mother who told her she was so ugly she should go to the back room when guests came. She announced at age 10 she would become an artist. She broke all of the rules , suffered disillusionment and heartache along the way, but came to find herself and her art in a landscape that she would study and draw and paint for 50 years.
I decided to paint Georgia O'Keefe as my first portrait this month. As I painted the lines of her face, I became aware that I was actually painting a landscape of her life, in a sense, through that beautiful face.
From the shamed child, to the west Texas teacher, to the celebrated N.Y.C. artist and partner of Alfred Steiglitz. And finally to the woman who took off in her model A in search of beauty. All of those things that make up a life, that make a person truly beautiful. Found in wrinkles, white hair, and eyes that still hold all the light. I like seeing those things come alive through the paint. It's what I love truly love about doing portraiture.
Oh, and I named my Jeep Georgia Blue.