World-renowned artist Georgia O’Keeffe is one of New Mexico’s most celebrated artists for her paintings of landscapes, flowers, bones, churches, and other breathtaking visuals while she resided in the Land of Enchantment.
O’Keeffe is now being featured in an advertisement from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s newly revamped Tourism Department, with visuals of New Mexico and the following quote from the artist:
“When I got to New Mexico that was mine. As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air – it’s different. The sky is different, the wind is different.”
Despite the seemingly innocent use of the quote to paint a picture of New Mexico’s beauty, the far-left extremist group “Three Sisters Collective,” which helped fuel the fire in the toppling of the Santa Fe Plaza obelisk, is taking exception to the advertisement, claiming the ad is “romantic settler voyeurism.”
“It’s literally an erasure of indigenous people of this area,” said Dr. Christina M. Castro with the Three Sisters Collective. “We will no longer be dehumanized this way. We are living, thriving cultures and we are here in New Mexico and we expect better from our Tourism Department.”
The Three Sisters Collective applauded the vandalism of the Plaza obelisk before it was completely toppled by radicalized domestic terrorists. The group wrote on Facebook, “With regard to the graffiti written on the obelisk, although uncomfortable for some, the vandalism of this object pales in comparison to hate crimes against Indigenous, Black and Brown people.” However, the monument was erected to commemorate New Mexico’s role in fighting the Confederacy — the very opposite of support for racism or hatred for Black and Brown people.
Then the Santa Fe-based Georgia O’Keeffe Museum itself, which is supposedly supportive of O’Keeffe and her work, branded the ad and the quote from the artist as “colonialist.”
The statement reads as follows:
“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. The O’Keeffe Museum recognizes the importance of tourism to the state economy. However, we are advocates for informed tourism that is inclusive of all of our stories and educates visitors on the nuances of our past and the richness of our multicultural present. The O’Keeffe is in open conversation with the NM Department of Tourism to encourage dialogue that supports informed tourism and economic opportunity for all of our communities.”
According to the far-left Santa Fe Reporter, “The messaging within this campaign is representative of a broader effort to overwrite Indigenous connections to place, which is a function of the ongoing colonial project,” says Felicia Garcia (Chumash), co-host of the Exhibiting Kinship podcast and a Santa Fe-based museum professional. “Colonial ideologies related to land and land ownership—such as manifest destiny, terra nullius and Western notions of private property—continue to harm Indigenous people. Indigenous place names, landmarks, stories, boundaries or lack thereof have been overwritten by romanticized US mythologies like this one.”
The far-out local criticisms of O’Keeffe mimic others from left-wing East Coasters, including Dr. Sascha Scott of Syracuse University in New York, who claimed O’Keeffe’s paintings for Dole Food Company in Hawaii during her time visiting the islands are “colonialist.”
She says that O’Keeffe’s paintings from the trip “were structured by colonialism, and Dole advertisements that feature her paintings served to justify and naturalize U.S. conquest. To understand O’Keeffe’s work as participating in the highly racialized project of colonialism is to disrupt dominant histories that, often unwittingly, contribute to the ongoing disenfranchisement of Indigenous peoples. Doing so is an important step toward ‘decolonizing’ the history of American modernism.”
However, the Texas-based public relations firm Giant Noise, which handles state tourism PR, told the Reporter in a statement that “This video is not in market; it was an example to premier the brand refresh. Creative pieces are still in production.”
The ad has been effectively scrubbed from the internet, but snippets from it can be seen in KRQE’s report below: