Preservation of O'Keeffe home, studio draws attention

AP News
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Posted: May 08, 2015 9:11 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Georgia O'Keeffe's home and studio is just the way she left it, from the record player in the living room to the spices in the kitchen and the pebbles the painter collected while on her walks through New Mexico's high desert.

Preservation of the historic adobe property has been the charge of Agapita Judy Lopez and her family for three generations. Her grandfather was O'Keeffe's gardener, her mother cooked and kept house and she and her brother also worked for the artist.

Lopez, who is now the director of historic properties for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, and her brother, Belarmino Lopez, were honored Friday in Santa Fe with lifetime achievement awards from the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division.

The awards are a reflection of the state's efforts to draw more attention to the cultural landscapes that attracted O'Keeffe and countless other artists to New Mexico over the last century.

From her bedroom window in the village of Abiquiu, O'Keeffe could look down on the cottonwood trees that border the Rio Chama and across to the cliffs that frame the river valley.

Just down the road are the White Place and Ghost Ranch, which supplied inspiration for many of O'Keeffe's paintings and sketches.

"She fell in love with the landscape and the light, and many people are following her lead," Agaita Lopez said. "It's a beautiful place. It's a place that should be preserved for future generations."

Rob Kret, director of the O'Keeffe Museum, said these spots can serve as resources as the museum looks to give visitors a window into O'Keeffe's life and the kind of person she was. "My personal perspective is that the landscape is such an important thing to O'Keeffe that we'd be falling short of doing our jobs if we didn't think about how to incorporate that landscape into some of our interpretations," he said.

Still in the early stages, the museum is working to identify more of these special locations in hopes of building a database that could bolster the preservation work being done by state officials.

The personal relationship the Lopezes had with O'Keeffe and their stories about working with the artist are also resources, and Kret said he wants to find a way to preserve those for visitors, possibility through a documentary.

Agapita Lopez, 60, said she considers herself privileged to have known O'Keeffe. She called the artist strong, independent and inspiring.

"She taught me a lot and taught me to see things differently," Agapita Lopez said. "Sometimes I think to myself how did this happen, I wasn't meant to be here this long, but here I am."