Few people in the world know as much about the life and art of Georgia O'Keeffe as Barbara Buhler Lynes, who resigned Friday after years as curator and director of the research center at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe.
Museum officials declined to say why Lynes stepped down, and Lynes could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lynes said in a statement issued by the museum that she enjoyed her time there and leaves with deep admiration for the director, staff and board members.
"Serving the museum has been an illuminating experience, and I look forward to pursuing new projects and opportunities," she said.
Lynes resignation came on opening day of a new exhibit that highlights the importance of O'Keeffe's camping and rafting trips through the Southwest and the inspiration the treks provided for her art.
For more than a decade, Lynes was the driving force behind more than 30 of the museum's exhibitions. She organized several symposiums at the research center that attracted scholars from across the country and became the museum's first curator in 1999, two years after its opening.
The museum is the largest single repository of O'Keeffe's work in the world. Its collection is made up of more than 3,000 works, including 1,149 O'Keeffe paintings, drawings and sculptures that date from 1901 to 1984, the year O'Keeffe was forced into retirement due to failing eyesight.
O'Keeffe is best known for her iconic flower paintings and colorful landscapes.
The museum has a wealth of materials from the artist's estate. At the time of her death in 1986, O'Keeffe's two homes in northern New Mexico and most everything in them were set aside for preservation.
That included her clothes, paint brushes, paint chips with notes jotted on the back, sketch books, canvases and hundreds of rocks and bleached animal bones she gathered over decades of exploring the high desert.
Lynes and Agapita Judy Lopez, the museum's director of historic properties, recently completed a book about the artist's two adobe homes.
Lynes told The Associated Press in previous interviews that despite her intimate knowledge of O'Keeffe, she learned something new about the artist with each exhibition she put together.
Lynes also put together a prize-winning, two-volume catalog that documents and authenticates O'Keeffe's extensive body of work. The publication was a project of the National Gallery of Art and the now dissolved Georgia O'Keeffe Foundation.
Anne Marion, founder and chairman of the museum's board, described Lynes' contributions to the museum and art community as "enormous."
The museum said it is planning to conduct a national search for a new curator.
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