A key component of O’Keeffe’s personal and artistic association with the southwestern United States, particularly New Mexico, was her attraction to animal bones. The painter expounded on their allure in a 1939 exhibition brochure essay, explaining, "I have wanted to paint the desert and I haven’t known how. I always think that I cannot stay with it long enough. So I brought home the bleached bones as my symbols of the desert. To me they are as beautiful as anything I know. To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around—hair, eyes and all with their tails switching." The painter famously collected, displayed as decor, and painted what she provocatively described on more than one occasion as the boney "trash" littering the desert, so strikingly different from the kinds of urban litter she would have known along the streets of New York City. Indeed, the desert detritus provided distinctive, signature subjects and populate some of her most revered canvases, including, as one particularly iconic example, Cow’s Skull: Red, White, and Blue.
From the Faraway, Nearby and related pictures attest to O’Keeffe’s artistic engagement with bones, usually extended well beyond conventional still life painting. These imaginative, quasi-surreal compositions often incorporate abstract and landscape elements, underscoring the innate energy she believed the bones possessed, in addition to their eternal spiritual ties to their native arid environs. From the Faraway, Nearby features a mule deer skull and antlers levitating over a rather generalized desert landscape. Closer inspection reveals two sets of antlers, which, combined, result in a profusion of writhing horns that nearly fills the composition and recalls the head of Medusa. O’Keeffe omitted any suggestion of a conventional middle ground, choosing, rather, to emphasize a gulf of imagined space between the distant landscape and the deer bones that confront the viewer, a dynamic relationship and difference that resonates with the words "faraway" and "nearby" in the painting’s title.
Intriguingly, O’Keeffe exhibited From the Faraway, Nearby early on as Deer's Horns, Near Cameron, a designation that remained attached to the work until at least 1966. The former title places the scene in Arizona—not New Mexico—specifically near Cameron, a small town on Diné Bikéyah (homelands of the Navajo Nation) close to the Grand Canyon’s southern rim. O’Keeffe visited the region in 1937 during a camping expedition with a friend, photographer Ansel Adams. Consequently, the painter may have intended the landscape element to reference the so-called "Painted Desert," a geological attraction near the town. Likewise, the imposing skull with antlers functions in some capacity as an emblem of the robust mule deer population that still roams this part of Arizona.
While O’Keeffe’s rationale for changing the painting’s title is unknown, her move away from the literal description toward one more poetic emphasizes the composition’s evocative overall effect. Moreover, her inclusion of the words "faraway" and "nearby" provides a discreet personal and private inflection alluding to her relationship with Alfred Stieglitz, who, in correspondence while they were apart, referred to O’Keeffe occasionally as "my Far Away One," "My Great-White-Faraway-So-Near-One," and other variations of this idea.
The deer skull may also surreptitiously signal O’Keeffe’s subject position as a white woman in relation to surrounding Indigenous communities and cultures. Removed by O’Keeffe from its natural environs and "installed" by the artist in a landscape setting of her own imagination, the horned skull begins to register as a prized big game trophy, but from a different kind of hunt, a subject that printmakers, photographers, and painters have commemorated in their work across time and place. In a striking photograph from around 1870 by an unrecorded British maker, an artfully arranged and profuse pile of trophy skulls offers an extreme example. Alexander Pope’s trompe-l’oeil ("deceive the eye") still life of 1887, by marked contrast, presents a more modest selection of trophies, along with the firearm presumably responsible for the kill. In this context, From the Faraway, Nearby, like other O’Keeffe paintings of desert bones, appears to extend the precedent of the trophy hunt picture into the twentieth century. While O’Keeffe did not perpetrate the death of the game she later painted, of course, her collection of this desert "trash" as subject for her art exposes an implicit sense of settler entitlement characteristic of a longer colonialist pattern of simultaneously revering and ravaging Indigenous history and culture.
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Title:From the Faraway, Nearby
Artist:Georgia O'Keeffe (American, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin 1887–1986 Santa Fe, New Mexico)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:36 × 40 1/8 in. (91.4 × 101.9 cm)
Credit Line:Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1959
the artist (1937–59; on extended loan to MMA, 1949–59; her gift as part of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection to MMA)
New York. An American Place. "Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue of the 14th Annual Exhibition of Paintings," December 27, 1937–February 11, 1938, no. 7.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Georgia O'Keeffe," January 21–February 22, 1943, no. 54 (as "Deer's Horns, Near Cameron").
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Georgia O'Keeffe: An Exhibition," May 14–August 25, 1946, no catalogue (checklist no. 46; as "Deer's Horns, Near Cameron").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "20th Century Painters: A Special Exhibition of Oils, Water Colors and Drawings Selected from the Collections of American Art in the Metropolitan Museum," June 16–October 29, 1950, unnum. brochure (p. 9, as "Deer's Horn, near Cameron," permanent loan from the artist).
Corning Museum of Glass. "The Deerslayers," September 29–November 18, 1956, not in brochure.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Fourteen American Masters: Paintings from Colonial Times to Today," October 16, 1958–January 4, 1959, no catalogue (unnum. checklist; as "Deer's Horn, Near Cameron").
Fort Worth. Amon Carter Museum of Western Art. "Georgia O'Keeffe: An Exhibition of the Work of the Artist from 1915 to 1966," March 17–May 8, 1966, unnumbered cat. (p. 29; as " Deer's Horn, near Cameron").
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "Georgia O'Keeffe: An Exhibition of the Work of the Artist from 1915 to 1966," May 28–July 3, 1966, unnumbered cat.
New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Georgia O'Keeffe," October 8–November 29, 1970, no. 86.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Georgia O'Keeffe," January 6–February 7, 1971, no. 86.
San Francisco Museum of Art. "Georgia O'Keeffe," March 15–April 30, 1971, no. 86.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Georgia O'Keeffe: 1887–1986," November 1, 1987–February 21, 1988, no. 84.
Art Institute of Chicago. "Georgia O'Keeffe: 1887–1986," March 5–June 19, 1988, no. 84.
Dallas Museum of Art. "Georgia O'Keeffe: 1887–1986," July 31–October 16, 1988, no. 84.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Georgia O'Keeffe: 1887–1986," November 19, 1988–February 5, 1989, no. 84.
London. Hayward Gallery. "Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern," April 8–June 27, 1993, no. 65.
Mexico City. El Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes. "Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern," July 15–October 1, 1993, no. 65.
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Georgia O'Keeffe: American and Modern," October 30, 1993–January 16, 1994, no. 65.
Washington D.C. Phillips Collection. "Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things," April 17–July 18, 1999, unnumbered cat. (fig. 50).
Santa Fe. Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. "Georgia O'Keeffe: The Poetry of Things," August 7–October 17, 1999, unnumbered cat.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Stieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe," October 13, 2011–January 2, 2012, no. 191.
Indianapolis Museum of Art. "Eloquent Objects: Georgia O'Keeffe and Still-Life Art in New Mexico," October 30, 2014–February 15, 2015, unnumbered cat. (pl. 58).
Philadelphia Museum of Art. "Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life," October 27, 2015–January 10, 2016, no. 112.
Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien. "Georgia O'Keeffe," December 7, 2016–March 26, 2017, unnumbered cat.
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. "Georgia O'Keeffe," April 22–July 30, 2017, unnumbered cat.
Bentonville, Ark. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. "The Beyond: Georgia O'Keeffe and Contemporary Art," May 26–September 3, 2018, unnumbered cat. (p. 127).
Elizabeth McCausland. "Georgia O'Keeffe Shows Her Latest Paintings." Springfield Sunday Union and Republican (January 2, 1938), p. E6, ill.
"Art: Year." Time (January 3, 1938), p. 28 and suppl., ill.
Paul V. Beckley. "Bulk of Stieglitz Art Collection Going to Metropolitan Museum." New York Herald (June 27, 1949), pp. 1, 11, ill.
George Heard Hamilton. "The Alfred Stieglitz Collection." Metropolitan Museum Journal 3 (1970), p. 392, fig. 25, as "Deer's Horn, near Cameron (From the Faraway Nearby)".
Irma B. Jaffe. "The Forming of the Avant-Garde, 1900–30." The Genius of American Painting. Ed. John Wilmerding. New York, 1973, ill. p. 221.
Georgia O'Keeffe. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 1976, pl. 72.
Laurie Lisle. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 1980, pp. 297–98.
Patricia Janis Broder. The American West: The Modern Vision. Boston, 1984, pp. 170–71, ill.
Lisa Mintz Messinger. "Georgia O'Keeffe." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 42 (Fall 1984), pp. 50–51, 61, fig. 49.
Laurie Lisle. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe. Albuquerque, 1986, p. 236.
Erika Billeter. "Georgia O'Keeffe's Bilder." Du (May 1987), p. 54, ill.
Lisa Mintz Messinger. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 1988, pp. 77–79, fig. 57.
Michael Berry. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 1988, pp. 80–81, ill.
Roxana Robinson. Georgia O'Keeffe: A Life. New York, 1989, pp. 420–21.
Doris Bry and Nicholas Callaway, ed. Georgia O'Keeffe in the West. New York, 1989, unpaginated no. 40, pl. 40.
Jennifer Saville. Georgia O'Keeffe: Paintings of Hawai'i. Exh. cat., Honolulu Academy of Arts. Honolulu, 1990, p. 31, fig. 12.
Charles Child Eldredge. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 1991, pp. 131–33, ill.
Maria Costantino. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 1994, pp. 37, 130–31, ill.
Britta Benke. Georgia O'Keeffe, 1887–1986: Blumen in der Wüste. Cologne, 1994, pp. 60, 64–66, ill.
Jula Dech. Georgia O'Keeffe: Gemälde. Munich, 1995, pl. 29.
Katherine Hoffman. Georgia O'Keeffe: A Celebration of Music and Dance. New York, 1997, pp. 56, 110, 119, pl. 36.
Barbara Buhler Lynes. Georgia O'Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven, Conn., 1999, vol. 1, p. 569, no. 914, ill.
Lisa Mintz Messinger. Georgia O'Keeffe. London, 2001, p. 134, fig. 85.
Barbara Buhler Lynes with Russell Bowman. O'Keeffe's O'Keeffes: The Artist's Collection. Exh. cat., Milwaukee Art Museum. New York, 2001, p. 169 (app. 2: "Works Given to Institutions during the Artist's Lifetime").
Hunter Drohojowska-Philp. Full Bloom: The Art and Life of Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 2004, p. 371.
Janet Souter. Georgia O'Keeffe. London, 2005, p. 42, pl. 38.
Janet Souter. Georgia O'Keeffe. New York, 2005, pp. 116, 132, ill., back cover ill.
Susan Wright. Georgia O'Keeffe: An Eternal Spirit. (1st ed., 1996). [New York], 2006, p. 109, ill.
Lothar Schirmer, ed. Georgia O'Keeffe/John Loengard: Paintings and Photographs, a Visit to Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch. Munich, 2006, pl. 51.
Katja Fauth. Modernist Visions in Taos: Mabel Dodge Luhan and the Artists of the Stieglitz Circle. Marburg, Germany, 2009, pp. 174–77, 194, fig. 37.
Lisa Mintz Messinger inStieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, pp. 14, 204, 281–82, no. 191, ill. (color), fig. 13 (installation photo).
Isabelle Duvernois inStieglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O'Keeffe. The Alfred Stieglitz Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Lisa Mintz Messinger. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2011, p. 193.
Charles C. Eldredge. Eloquent Objects: Georgia O'Keeffe and Still-Life Art in New Mexico. Exh. cat., Indianapolis Museum of Art. [Memphis], 2014, pp. 42, 156, colorpl. 58.
Mark D. Mitchell inAudubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 2015, p. 239, no. 112, ill. p. 238 (color).
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