Last month, the Piñon Post reported how far-left groups have begun to focus on Georgia O’Keefe as their next target to “cancel.” The fringe group, “Three Sisters Collective,” blasted a New Mexico Tourism Department advertisement featuring O’Keeffe as “romantic settler voyeurism” and “erasure” of Native American culture. Here is the advertisement:
Even the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum itself, a supposed institution meant to honor the late artist who came to New Mexico, blasted her, writing the following in a statement:
The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum does not support the use of Georgia O’Keeffe quotes describing the New Mexico landscape as ‘her country’ or claiming ‘that was mine.’ While these quotes are from the artist, it is now clear that this is the language of possession, colonization, and erasure. Such language is offensive, insulting and insensitive. We strongly discourage the use of these problematic phrases, as well as ‘O’Keeffe Country’ to promote tourism or represent Northern New Mexico.
But the attacks on O’Keeffe’s legacy are nothing new. An August 2020 Georgia O’Keeffe Museum-sponsored virtual event called “Discussion: This is Not O’Keeffe Country” brought together radicals to assail O’Keeffe’s legacy and demean New Mexico culture in general.
In opening up the discussion, Cody Hartley, the director of the museum, claimed the Abiquiú area where the artist lived was “mistakenly” called “O’Keeffe Country” and instead said that he was “recognizing that the region we are discussing tonight is Tewa Country.” He then claimed the use of land in Santa Fe was “settler colonialism.”
Alicia Inez Guzman led the discussion, which invoked the term “colonialism” repeatedly in the description of O’Keeffe’s journey to New Mexico. Guzman described the artist’s worldview as “cosmopolitan.” She then asked the panelists about what she dubbed “unintended consequences.”
Christina M. Castro responded saying, “But with regard to unintended consequences, I would argue that the consequence, you know, they might not be as unintended, as we may think they are. The more I learned about the legacy of O’Keeffe and the era of her time, and the folks that were coming out from the East coast to, you know, ‘find themselves in a vast undiscovered landscape,’ the more I learned, you know, these elites were very calculated in their movements. And so, I’m trying to look at the legacy.”
Castro added, “These were elites who came out here as a part of an artistic settler colonial project. So, I’m interested in that because I don’t think that the consequences are necessarily unintentional.”
Guzman responded, “I think that’s a good point, Christina, because if you’re really entitled, and you’re really privileged, you may not think they’re intended. But intention doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with outcome…. We’re entering into the cash economy, where we’re seeing some environmental racism and that the, you know, the first movements in that direction.”
Jason Garcia of Santa Clara Pueblo chimed in, invoking the term “erasure” multiple times, then saying, “I found it interesting that [O’Keeffe] said, in reference to [Cerro] Pedernal (mountain)… Tsi’pin, She said, ‘It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.’ So, just the fact that she’s saying, ‘If I paint this picture a thousand times, two thousand times, it’s mine, I have ownership.’ So, it’s just interesting of how that intended erasure and it was–I mean, you fall in love with a place, but once you call it yours, it’s a whole different ball game and things like that.”
Guzman agreed, saying, “There’s this phrase that says that amnesia is the algorithm of colonization. And so, I think that that’s absolutely appropriate in this context.”
On the topic of feminism, Guzman added, “We think of the feminism that O’Keeffe came out of, that she really originated out of, it’s very different contexts and she was breaking glass ceilings in the art world but does that really square with how we see women in our place here in New Mexico.”
Castro said, “White women have benefited a lot from feminism on the backs of women and people of color.”
Then the converstiaon went down a turn where they spoke down toward the Spanish who came to New Mexico, claiming they used Native Americans as slaves. Guzman called it “white supremacy” when speaking about people of mixed race.
She said, “And then, there were a lot of terms for like mixed race people as well, because the Spanish were really like obsessed with making sense of like, mixtures. This is white supremacy, right? I mean, here’s the word we should be using. Speaking of not using words, we should be using white supremacy.”
Castro added, “ The hierarchy of white supremacy and Hispanic white supremacy.”
Once the conversation turned back into talking about O’Keefe, Guzman asked, “Is it fair to lump O’Keeffe in with those who did abuse the land and claimed it by manifest destiny?” Castro answered, “Yes.”
Guzman previously wrote an article in 2020 claiming the racist, anti-Hispanic narrative that the Hispanic identity was fiction. This racist theory has previously been spun by The Red Nation hate group’s Nick Estes. Here’s what Guzman wrote:
The Americanization of the Plaza ran parallel to other efforts that sought to whitewash the city’s mixed Indo-Hispanic population — racist campaigns that Swentzell refers to as a “rehabilitation of Mexicans into Spaniards.” New Mexic… was “too Mexican” to be admitted to the Union as a state. So white tourism boosters, anthropologists and legislators (many of them slave owners) began a massive rebranding to cast residents as Spanish-American, an identity that was “closer to white.” The founding of Spanish-American schools and Spanish Colonial societies and the celebration of Spanish Fiestas was just another means of performing whiteness, Swentzell said. To claim pure Spanish ancestry was a way to identify with your oppressor so that you could eat scraps at the table he took from you.
The panelists then claimed O’Keeffe was a product of displacing Native American people throughout her entire life since she was born in Sun Prarie, Wisconsin in 1887, which Garcia said was a Native American “ancestral village.”
“Of where you’re saying George O’Keeffe wasn’t, she didn’t choose this, but she was actually a product of displacement of native peoples,” he added.
The panel shifted once again to bashing the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum for how much it charged for admission and a criticism of museums in general.
Corrine Sanchez of “Tewa Women United” said, “So, I would also like, consider the deconstruction of museums. Like we build this fortune, or we build this maintenance around museums and these structures, and we created a culture around it where people go visit and learn. If we deconstructed all of that money and put that into our educational system in some way, for our young people and had, you know, maybe then traveling. You know, traveling displays or things that everyone could access. This is the same conversation we need to have around the structures and the monuments. We go to D.C. because they have these big old monuments.”
The panel agreed that it was a place of “radicalism” needed to change the museum’s framework. Guzman said, “And part of it is like reflecting on your own privilege…. And this is the thing that everybody in Santa Fe should really be thinking about is like, how do you instrumentalize your privilege so that it’s going towards or weaponized your privilege?”
As self-identified radicals claim is based on colonization and supposed white supremacy, the war on Georgia O’Keeffe is still trying to damage the late artist’s legacy and contribution to New Mexico’s identity. The war on O’Keeffe, however, is by no means a contained event in general, as New Mexicans are seeing monuments and other historically and culturally significant places and artifacts ripped down and erased by radical “Indigenous” individuals.
Watch the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum event here: