August 15th, Georgia O'Keefe Day in Amarillo

August the 15th in Amarillo is now Georgia O'Keefe day as proclaimed by Mayor Paul Harpole.

O'Keefe is one of America's best known artists, but not everyone realizes the influence this part of the world had on her and her art.

You may have noticed her name on a sign on the way to the Palo Duro Canyon or may have seen some of her art work. Usually desert in nature with flowers or skulls. She was a true pioneer both in spirit and in her artwork.

She was a school teacher in Amarillo beginning in 1912 and later taught applied art at West Texas Normal College in Canyon, which sports an historical marker in the shadow of the very building she taught in at the time.

It was here that her love for the Plains started to influence her art, according to Michael Grauer, Associate Director of Cultural Affairs at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum.

"The golden grasslands and great sky, that's what she remembered and if you look at her work, that kind of thing is seen over and over, especially the big sky."

Back around the time of World War I, women artists were pretty limited in what they could with their art, but she not only broke the rules, she broke the mold.

"She allegedly walked out to the Canyon on her own and did a lot of exploring and walking around. Remember, this was Victorian times and ladies of the day just didn't do that, they rode properly in a carriage and so forth and were always with an escort or some kind of chaperone. She just took off across the prairie anytime she felt like it," said Grauer.

When asked about the rumor of one of her old trunks being left behind after she moved...turns out. It's true!

That trunk was tracked down and opened. No unknown masterpieces, but there were relics and the Museum now owns it.

"We opened it. Had some of her art books and some other personal things. We own it. We're not only interested in her art, but the ephemera of her life. We have a cot she left her when she went back to New York and an orange crate she fashioned into a nightstand...we own that."

In one of her last interviews, Grauer says O'Keefe remarked that Amarillo was her favorite place she ever lived...a sentiment still reflected in her paintings.

You can see one of her oil painting at the Museum in canyon. It's only one of four known oil works she did while living here.