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Monthly Chapter Meetings

The monthly meeting of the Chapter features presentations of interest to the architectural profession.

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Wednesday February 8, 2023
11:45 am to 1:15 pm
New Mexico Association of Counties
444 Galisteo Street

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Into the  Desert Laboratory:

Landscape, Space and Abstraction in the Late Work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O'Keeffe

Santa Fe-based architectural historian Sarah Rovang presents work in progress from her forth- coming book Through the Long Desert: Georgia O’Keeffe & Frank Lloyd Wright (Rizzoli, 2025). This course focuses on how Wright and O’Keeffe used Southwestern desert landscapes to catalyze a new level of spatial abstraction in their later works. Rather than simply repeating themes and techniques that had buoyed the success of their earlier careers, Wright and O’Keeffe drew from the flora, fauna, geology, and archæology of the Sonoran landscape and the New Mexico high desert, respectively, to interrogate space in new and compelling ways.

Rovang argues that Wright’s Taliesin West and O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home functioned as laboratories in which the architect and painter tested these new ideas. Taliesin West boldly defies many of the architectural patterns and motifs that unite the rest of Wright’s œuvre. The Abiquiu house, which has been called one of O’Keeffe’s “greatest late works” in its own right, functioned as the painter’s constantly evolving workshop for new forms, perspectives, and materials. Additionally, these spaces fostered community and artistic exchange, welcoming in Wright’s Taliesin Fellowship and O’Keeffe’s remarkably diverse circle of friends and colleagues.


During the 1940s and 1950s, Wright and O’Keeffe’s “desert laboratories” became the crit- ical setting in which each perfected the spatial form of the “container” or “vessel.” Anchoring this discussion is O'Keeffe's Pelvis with Shadows and the Moon, which the artist painted in 1943 and gave to Wright in 1946. The most compositionally ambitious of O'Keeffe's pelvis series, this large work ties together a number of aspects that unite Wright and O'Keeffe's ap- proach to space: the play of figure and ground, the simultaneity of space and container, and the use of negative space as key structuring element. O’Keeffe’s pelvis series, patio door series, and late experiments with ceramics manifest similar formal and thematic concerns. Many of Wright’s daring late works, including the Guggenheim Museum, the V.C. Morris Gift Shop, and other major civic and religious structures, also exploit these devices to great effect.


Sarah Rovang is an architectural historian based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a Program Officer at the Thoma Foundation, she oversees grant-making initiatives and research related to rural arts and education. Born and raised in New Mexico, she holds a Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture from Brown University. Her dissertation examined the modern architecture and infrastructure of the Rural Electrification Administration under the New Deal. Before joining the Thoma Foundation, she taught architectural history at the University of Michigan, traveled around the world as the Society of Architectural Historians’ H. Allen Brooks Traveling Fellow, and was a Research Fellow at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. She is currently developing a book and accompanying exhibition examining the relationship between the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O’Keeffe. 

Credit Designations:

1.0 LU  (pending)

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