From the Far Faraway: O’Keeffe’s Travel Ephemera

One of the current projects in the archives involves processing O’Keeffe’s travel ephemera from her Abiquiu book room. Like many of us, she kept various things from her travels around the world such as postcards, notes, travel schedules, photos, and ticket stubs. Grouped by region or country, ephemera was stored in boxes, often recycled typewriter paper boxes, on the shelves of the book room with a label in O’Keeffe’s distinct handwriting affixed.

O’Keeffe began her international travels in 1932 traveling to the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec, Canada, but it wasn’t until 1951 with a trip to Mexico that she begins a more active period of travel abroad. In February 1951, O’Keeffe drove to Mexico with Spud Johnson, Eliot Porter, and his wife Aline. She visits with Frida Kahlo, Miguel and Rose Covarrubias and travels to various places including Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, and the Yucatan. In a letter to Peggy Kiskadden on letterhead from the Rancho San Felipe, Oaxaca, Mexico O’Keeffe writes: “For a long time I have intended to come down here so here I am. It is the first that I have felt free [felt free is underlined] – And I wanted to find a warm place I might wish to return to when my world gets too cold and windy. Spud drives with me and we wandered two weeks till we arrived here – This is almost too good to leave but this is a look around trip so I will keep on looking.” O’Keeffe returns to Oaxaca in 1957. Again in a letter to Kiskadden dated December 13, 1957, O’Keeffe writes: “I came once before and always intended to come back. I seemed the nicest place I found in Mexico.” Below are a few items from the Mexico box.

Contents of the travel boxes will help us better understand where and when O’Keeffe traveled, who her companions were, as well as her personal and artistic interests and influences. The images below are of a postcard from Rosa Covarrubias found in the Mexico box. Rosa is Miguel Covarrubias’s wife, who’s work is the focus of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s upcoming exhibition “Miguel Covarrubias: Drawing a Cosmopolitan Line”. Read more about the O’Keeffe/Covarrubias connection and the exhibition, which opens later this month, in the accompanying exhibition catalogue and here:

While collections are typically closed to the public during processing, a selection from the travel boxes will be on display in the Research Center this fall and winter, along with books on travel from O’Keeffe’s personal library.

Liz Ehrnst, Archives and Digital Collections Librarian

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