Georgia O’Keeffe steps on the gas of her Ford Model A. She cruises across a bright, seemingly endless desert landscape, hunting for inspiration. When she finds a space that ignites her creativity, she turns off the car, unbolts the passenger seat, and swivels it to face the back window. She places her canvas and paints against the back seat, climbs in the passenger seat, and admires the view of the desert through the windows.
The 20th-century artist, whose work often captures landscapes of the American Southwest, became famous for her abstract paintings of flowers, deserts, and animal bones. These masterpieces made O’Keeffe so well-known that she has become synonymous with the Southwest. She was drawn to the unusual vegetation and landforms of the desert. She painted these natural scenes using abstract techniques and lush colors.
O’Keeffe’s subjects required her to spend hours—sometimes days—in the relentless New Mexico heat. In 1929, she purchased a Ford Model A and taught herself to drive it. Her beloved car—which she nicknamed “Hello”—became something of a makeshift studio and was her favorite place to work. She would sit in the passenger seat and paint while looking out the windows, safely shaded from the harsh desert sun and the bees that would begin to swarm as the day went on. Her car gave her the freedom—and the shelter—to explore the harsh terrains that inspired much of her life’s work.