Georgia O'Keeffe Museum


217 Johnson Street

Santa Fe, New Mexico



Other than those who love New Mexico cuisine–and I am decidedly not a fan–the first thing anyone asks when they hear you’ve been to Santa Fe is, “Did you go to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum?”


Of course, I did. My first piece of advice to anyone planning to be in Santa Fe is to get tickets well in advance. The museum has some 1,200 pieces of O’Keeffe’s work–paintings, drawings, sculptures–but tickets are timed and in high demand. You can easily be shut out if you don’t reserve early. The second suggestion is that you don’t need to rush through it. The museum is small and only displays a few dozen of her works at a given moment in time.


Georgia O’Keeffe might well be the most famous artist in American history, so excuse me if you’ve heard this background spiel before. O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was born in Wisconsin and studied art first in Chicago, then in New York City. She arrived in New York shortly after the 1913 Armory exhibition that was the first time most Americans saw modern art. O’Keeffe was already disposed to accept it and began to produce abstractions that caught the eye of one of modernism’s biggest proponents, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. He sponsored O’Keeffe’s first solo show and soon the two were lovers. They married in in 1924.


In New York O’Keeffe produced abstracted cityscapes that attracted great notice. She was also one of Stieglitz’s favored models. His nudes of her cast her as a shapely and sensuous figure, though one whose facial features were more those of a “handsome” woman than a beautiful one. Stieglitz was also a quisquous rogue whose infidelities contributed to O’Keeffe’s mental health issues that resulted in several asylum confinements. Beginning in 1929, she began spending time in New Mexico and moved to Abiquiu in 1946 when Stieglitz died. She lived there for most of the rest of her life, though she spent her declining years in Santa Fe, where she passed in 1986. Eleven years later, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum opened in that city.


It was an immediate hit and there has been much discussion of expansion or a new facility, but for now the Johnson Street facility is a big draw. O’Keeffe is best known for her New York abstractions, largescale flower paintings, dried skull ensembles, and New Mexico landscapes. Many of her works represent or suggest female genitalia, which were embraced by feminists. She was certainly an iron-willed individual in her own right, though she was a bundle of contradictions. She was also a clothes horse, could be as cranky as her late husband, and treated her artist sister Ida abominably. There is, however, no doubting her artistic genius.


Her work can also be found in Santa Fe’s New Mexico Art Museum (NMAM). Below are some works I found intriguing at both her namesake facility and the NMAM. As you might suspect, most of it consists of works she created in the Southwest, not south of Broadway. Both museums also have photographs that feature O’Keeffe. Enjoy these images, but know that there is no substitute for seeing them up close and personal.


Rob Weir   







Provincetown, MA: Small Town USA


Yes, Provincetown is a small town. On a really hot summer day, as many as 60,000 people flood the beaches, dunes, and streets, but its year-round population is under 3,700. Getting there is arduous but it’s hard to get lost. Cross the bridge onto Cape Cod and drive Route 6 until it ends!


Provincetown is a resort town, but one with a difference. It is (per capita) the gayest place in America (163/1000) and that doesn’t count LGBTQ visitors. P-town, as it’s often called, has been gay since the late 1970s.




Boys will be girls




You can certainly have a good time there if you’re straight; it’s a live-and-let-live place. You’ll encounter men in drag, same sex couples canoodling, gay-themed shows, and look-at-me flamboyance. This is especially true of the younger set. Longtime residents and business owners, gay and straight, have folded themselves into civic life and businesses and welcome everyone. But if you’re not okay with gay people, don’t go there; you’d be like a vegan complaining there’s nothing on the steakhouse menu to eat.


P-town is an American story. It’s not what it was because towns either adapt or decline. It was the first place Pilgrims made landfall after getting lost on their way to Virginia, a fortuitous mistake as the Pilgrims thrived when Jamestown starved. The Mayflower Compact is thought to have been penned on the site. Alas, the Compact didn’t apply to Algonquian natives.  



By the 1800s, though, the Pilgrim past was gone; P-town had become a fishing and whaling center whose  English population gave way to Azorean Portuguese immigrants. Like many fishing villages, it was a grimy, smelly place dominated by small unpainted homes, some shingle-style, others just bare clapboards–small because the winters were long and the winds off the Atlantic can be fierce. (They certainly were one of the May days we were there.) Fishing boats and piers remain in evidence, but the industry has declined, along with its Portuguese population. Because of P-town’s proximity to Boston, those of Irish ancestry now outnumber Portuguese by nearly 2:1.


I didn't say all the art was conventional


Artists and thespians altered Provincetown in the first half of the 20th century and the town remains famous for galleries and summer stock theater. Its once-thriving art colonies are now more individualized than collective, but painters, photographers, and sculptors abide.


You will see plenty of visible wealth in today’s P-town, but it was down-market during the late 1950s into the 1960s. The counterculture landed there in the ‘60s and ‘70s because it was cheap! Peek into a realtor’s window and you’ll know those days are gone. You will also need to search hard for reasonably priced dining or lodging, major reasons why many Bay Staters stay elsewhere when they visit Cape Cod.Yet, Provincetown is also an American story in that it has a lot of invisible poverty. Its yearly per capita income is $4k less than the Massachusetts mean. Some is due to being dominated by service industries, but its poverty rate of  15.4 percent is about 1/3 higher than the rest of Massachusetts. 


Foggy lower Commercial Street 6:30 am


Commercial Street is the heart of the tourist town. The lower part is filled with shops, restaurants, and motels and you can easily wile away a day wending your way along it. There is a lovely public library, an intriguing art museum, a handsome town hall, and some relatively cheap eats at the part of MacMillian Pier closest to Commercial Street. Nearby is a wonderful Portuguese bakery where you will be tempted to order everything. (I’m partial to the custard pastry that’s Portugal’s most famous, pasteis de nata.) Nor can you miss it; it’s called Provincetown Portuguese Bakery!




Inside the town limits the Pilgrim Monument is the prominent tourist destination, though you need not shell out $18 for a panoramic ocean view you can see elsewhere. I’d also avoid the Lobster Pot as well. It looks unpretentious, but it’s $20 appetizers and a $42 hunk of halibut. Why? Because Anthony Bourdain started there. Bah! That was 50 years ago. Ciro & Sal’s is a cozy Italian place further up Commercial (4 Kiley Court) and is reasonably priced. 


Race Point



The National Park Service’s Cape Cod National Seashore entrance is just outside the town limits. Make sure to travel down to Race Point for its desolate setting and wild surf, though swim somewhere safer, like Herring Cove. (Actually, who wants to swim in the icy Atlantic?) There are great bike paths in the National Seashore, but take your time as your calves will be bawling on the uphill dune trails. Birders love the area as well. 


Still, I doubt we’ll be back in P-town soon. It’s simply too bloody long to get there from Western Mass and we didn’t go when Route 6 gets packed. It’s far easier to hit the Southern Maine coast, so we’ll cede the Cape to Bostonians and hang with the crunchier Mainers.


Rob Weir


The Trees: Strange Fruit and Snarky Revenge


THE TREES (2021)

By Percival Everett

Graywolf Press, 305 pages.





“Hoisted on your own petard” means you are a victim of schemes of your own design. In The Trees novelist Percival Everett gives White racists a dose of their own medicine. The title derives from “Strange Fruit,” a famed song about lynching made famous by Billie Holiday. [link here] Among its lyrics:


Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees


The book opens in Money, Mississippi. If that rings a bell, it’s where 14-year-old Emmett Till was tortured and mutilated in 1955 for allegedly whistling at Carolyn Bryant, a White woman. His bloated body was retrieved from the Tallahatchie River with a cotton gin fan wrapped around his head with barbed wire. An all-White jury took just 67 minutes to acquit Carolyn’s husband Roy and his brother-in-law J. W. Milam, who subsequently bragged of their misdeeds.


Turn about is fair play in Everett’s wicked satire. Carolyn is now a CB-loving grandmother living in redneck squalor in the suburb of Small Change and putters about in an electric cart stolen from Sam’s Club. Her grandson, Junior Junior, is found dead, with his genitals ripped off and in the hand of a dead Black man. Mystery: that Black man was already dead—by many years. It gets weirder. The Rev. Fondle, also Money’s coroner, can’t explain how the Black corpse disappeared from his morgue. Try putting out a Most Wanted poster for that suspect.


Wheat Bryant, a no-account truck driver fired for nearly driving a Piggly Wiggly truck into the river, also shows up dead. Not only is the M.O. the same, he’s lying beside the same dead Black man. The investigation is handed over to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, which dispatches Ed Morgan, a 6’5” inch/300-pound giant and Jim Davis, smaller and more health-conscious. Both are Black, and local cops practically choke to say “Negro” after beginning to say a different word. Not that Ed and Jim care. They are like vaudeville stand-up comedians having fun working the crowd by insulting it and each other. Their IQ is high; that of Money’s Whites lower than a snake’s belly.


The first two victims are sons of Till’s murderers. Locals wonder if Till has come back for revenge but after still another murder, the corpse doesn’t walk off and it’s not Till. Not that this info gets anyone closer to solving the murders. So what can the KKK do except burn a cross in a ritual so dumb the third K could stand for Klown.


The fruit gets stranger. The FBI sends Agent Herberta Hinds to the scene and she too is Black. Meet Mama Z, a woman who has file cabinets filled with lynching material and claims to be 105-years-old. Her caregiver is a Black waitress who can hold her own in the Ed and Jim stand-up routine. Then the Rev. Fondle dies–the same M.O. for a minister who was also the KKK Kleagle. A couple more Klansmen and Trumpers die, also cuddled beside long-dead Black men bearing their severed equipment.


Before you can say, “revenge is a dish best served cold,” similar murders proliferate: Elaine, AK; Colfax, LA; Omaha, NB; Tulsa, OK; Rosewood, FL; East St, Louis, IL; Chicago, Detroit…. Google those places and “race riots” and you’ll know why. Other murders broaden the color spectrum: Rock Springs, WY; Wounded Knee, SD; Bisbee, AZ…. One of the book’s funniest sections involves a bloviating president of the United States who vows he will personally put a stop to all of this, then hides under his desk and whimpers when his Secretary of the Treasurer is murdered and missing his goolies.


I’ll let you discover if anyone figures out what’s going on. If laughter is the best medicine, The Trees provides a snarky look at righting past injustices and lampooning racists, a Wizard of Oz-like POTUS, good ole’ boys dumber than homemade sin, and other absurdities in these our troubled times. Lurking behind it, though, are implied warnings that the future race war touted by White supremacists might have the desired outcome. Seventy-one years ago the poet Langston Hughes mused about the fate of a dream deferred: “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load/Or does it explode?” Boom!


Rob Weir


* Holiday claimed she cowrote “Strange Fruit.” She did not. It was written by a White Jewish man, Abe Meeropol. He also adopted the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after they were executed for spying in 1953 in a highly controversial prosecution.