Natural Selection


Dear Artist,

When Georgia O’Keeffe’s husband, Alfred Stieglitz, died in 1946, she packed up her home in New York for the last time and moved permanently to Ghost Ranch. She was 59 years old. Having first visited Taos in 1929 with her friend and fellow artist Rebecca Strand, Georgia had already fallen in love with the Southwest and poured herself into painting it. “Well! Well! Well!” she said on first glance. “This is wonderful. No one told me it was like this!” From that year on, she had made Abiquiú her second home, even customizing her Ford Model-A with an easel so she could drive out into the desert alone and paint in the back seat.


“New Alphabet (install)” 2018
acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches
by Sara Genn

A couple of years ago, I was invited to do a commission on site in the California desert. Tucked into the edge of the desolate wilds of the San Jacinto Mountains, Joshua Tree and Mojave Desert National Parks, I felt struck by the strangeness of its arid expanses and silent, purple dusks. The total absence of air pollution, noise pollution and light pollution pulled me into a deeper wonder. My mother encouraged me to return with Peter, and soon we were looking for a suitable studio. On the eve of signing the deed, I let the tears flow, wondering, as I have with every new creative space, if I would be able to be my best creative self there. The question came to me: How much of my work has depended on the dusty loft and emotional and physical friction of New York? I’d been striving for beauty there for fourteen years.


“Dreamsweeper” 2018
acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches
by Sara Genn

I spent the first six months studying the light in every part of the house — a 1960 post-and-beam gathering shadows, reflected light and soft hues, all changing by the hour, and so ambient and dustless I thought at first my eyesight might be improving. A mockingbird returned my gaze from a lemon tree, and suddenly I missed my dad again. I pictured him in his unfolded plein-air easel-chair beneath an untamed olive tree. An article about forest-bathing consoled me, and I let the grubs wriggle between my toes. “It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get at the real meaning of things,” wrote Georgia. “Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest.”


“The Day We Don’t Have Words For” 2018
acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches
by Sara Genn



PS: “The abstraction is often the most definite form for the intangible thing in myself that I can clarify in paint.” (Georgia O’Keeffe)

“There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.” (Matsuo Basho)

Esoterica: “Making your unknown known is the important thing,” said Georgia, “and keeping the unknown always beyond you — catching — crystalizing your simpler clearer vision of life… that you must always keep working to grasp.” As if by osmosis, this new place seems to have produced paintings I could not have known about before — or planned. Umber hills nearby remind me of Georgia’s Taos Mountain and what she felt about the rust red hills of Abiquiú: “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me,” she said. “God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”


Sara Genn: New Paintings opens this coming Thursday, September 13th, 2018 at Voltz Clarke Gallery, 141 East 62nd Street, New York City. If you’re in the neighbourhood, I would love to see you there.

“The painting is like a thread that runs through all the reasons for all the other things that make one’s life.” (Georgia O’Keeffe)



  1. Your new paintings are breathtaking, Sara. And the letter you have written that accompanies them is also clear and beautiful. Congratulations on your upcoming exhibition. I hope you enjoy it all.

  2. Dear Sara,
    This letter about the desert and Georgia O’Keefe meant a lot to me. I love reading your letters and the ones from your father. I love the generosity of spirit in the words you share. I will place these quotes next to my easel and paint!

  3. How lovely. Nice that you found the gentle peace that a special landscape can bring. Love the last quote…I have often felt that these mountains here in Waterton are “mine”…I have painted them so frequently….but I’m am not sure I am worth of possessing them? ;0) I wonder if G.O . ever felt she’d claimed ownership. LAS

  4. Georgia O’Keeffe was a savvy business woman. she would buy back her art at auction, if the price was not met.
    She owned half of her body of work by the time she passed away.
    Her estate was 70 Million plus dollars .

  5. Your post touched me deeply, Sara. “Dreamsweeper” reminds me of the snakes carved in our southwest petroglyphs, which I have been studying for decades. Your show will be fantastic, and these paintings reflect a new level in your art.

  6. Odd that I should read this today. I am waiting for our Real Estate agent to come and place the “for sale” sign in front of our home. I have a list of things that worry me as I sell one home and buy another. One of the thoughts that run in the back of my mind is, will my painting muse visit me in my new home? The timing of your letter could not be more for perfect for me! Thank you!

  7. So excited for you . This new body of work is full of the spirit of light and love and I can see the spirits dancing and laughing in your canvases… congratulations …..

    • Sharon Tillinghast on

      Words by Georgia O’Keefe are perfect to live by…………Joshua Tree et al. A perfect place to create. The calm is so calm it leaves it’s mark on you. There is a touch of the native spirit seeming to follow you from room to room.

      Thanks for sharing your perfect feast.

  8. Many years ago I saw a Georgia. Okeefe. Retrospective. At a major museum in New. York. Georgia. Okeefe paintings are IMPROVED in reproduction. . In person her work looks very amateurish looking

    If it wasn’t for promotion by very influential critic Stieglitz her lover , Georgia Okeefe would be forgotten today

    This Is Art World Hype At Its Very Best

    • I, too, saw a retrospective of Georgia O’Keefe at the Louisianna Museum outside of Copenhagen in Denmark about 10 years ago. Also at a museum in Pheonix, and in San Fransisco. They were wonderful. I have noticed that the relatively negative comments here have come from men. It seems that their opinions are either about money or the put-down of women. I have been to scores of major art museums around Europe and the U.S. and the paintings of men whom I just have to shake my head at, are MANY. Typical of you to subscribe her success and acclamation to Alfred Stieglitz. She moved to New Mexico after his death, and her freedom allowed her to soar. Your comments are childish.

  9. Harry. Weisburd on

    Natural Selectiion. —-I must be good ! My work was selected for exhibition in the competition by a well known/ famous = critic/ curator. / artist ——-
    The Unknown Factor in decision to choose an entry in a competition.

    The Juror may be trying to create an ocerall look for the exhibition. Because their REPUTATiON asan art critic. Curator. Artist is also involved .

    As a professor of Art at a major. Eastern University I was assisting a major Curator in jurying a show. He picked works as part of a puzzle to create an OVERALL LOOK FOR THE EXHIBITION

    He was the Curator for a major museum. And his Reputation as a critic and Curator was also involved

  10. Congrats Harry!
    Have always loved Georgia since college while viewing huge reproductions in the library. Later when I lived in Tucson for 4 years, I came to love the desert with all it’s odd (for me) flora and fauna. Embracing the unknown was life changing. The sunsets are indescribable. Everything nature is in the extreme!

  11. Georgia was/is one of the a great influences in much of my art and photography. Having read a number of her bios, her art challenged her during her lifetime, even up to her passing – what more can we ask of an artistic, creative, imaginative, beautiful lady of such talent. Wow!

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April 6, 2019 to April 13, 2019


Do you feel stuck in a rut? Need time to reflect on transitions? Long for an extended art-play date? Join Ellie Harold for a unique expressive art-making retreat for 12 women in colonial San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.  Re-establish flow in your life through painting, movement, soulful discussion, and a wealth of cultural, visual and culinary delights. (Everyone has their own room!)


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Acrylic on canvas
34 x 30 inches
Robert Genn (1936-2014)

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Robert’s technique includes a tradition of strong design with patterns of color and form, with a pervasive sense of personal style. Grand themes are transposed onto small panels and larger canvases in a manner similar to members of the Group of Seven. Most of Robert’s work is in acrylic. He has also done considerable work in oils, watercolour, and silk screen printing.


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