Lately, I have been interested in Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings of bones and other objects she found within the desert landscape of her New Mexico home. The other day when visiting the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, I was on my way to one exhibit when on a whim, I decided to take a look at their exhibit featuring works by American artists from their permanent collection instead. Turning round one of the corners, I was pleasantly surprised to be confronted with O'Keeffe's Red Hills with White Shell :
As I made my way through the exhibit, I began to see some connections between these pieces that were otherwise grouped together simply because their creators were all affiliated with the same geographic region. In addition to O'Keeffe's painting, several works spoke to me about various Americans' relationships to the land, including a giant hand bound book of James Audubon's bird illustrations, a Kachina doll, and a Gee's Bend quilt constructed from an assortment of worn blue jean pant legs. The "American" in the exhibition title began to become less an arbitrary reference to a group of people simply occupying the same geography and more a reference to a particular group of people influenced and shaped by a particular piece of land.