Agnes Pelton, 'The Guide,' 1929, oil on canvas, 30 1/2 x 20 1/4'.
There is nothing like the light of the desert to sharpen reality and to heighten spirituality. Here, in the endless expanses of sky and mountains, an artist can come into contact with elements that are non-existent in the highly artificial art world: the sublime and the beautiful. In Illuminations four women came to the desert like pilgrims, Georgia O’Keeffe seeking a new identity apart from Alfred Stieglitz, Agnes Martin, seeking peace in the horizontal landscape, Florence Miller Pierce, seeking a new life after her husband’s death. These three lived in New Mexico, undoubtedly aware of but apparently not in contact with each other. Agnes Pelton, who had drifted in and out of the art world, finished her spiritual journey in the desert of California on a Theosophical quest. The summer exhibition brings together four very disparate artists and connects them through the profound peacefulness of their desert canvases. Collectors are loath to lend their fragile and cherished paintings, and this show provides an opportunity to see these artists of the desert. Martin and O’Keeffe are the most famous of the quartet and they could not be more different. O’Keeffe was always matter-of-fact and meticulous in her observation of her extraordinary surroundings of heaving hills and writhing bones, severely romantic, totally American and completely Western. In contrast to O’Keeffe’s sense of
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