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New Mexico: The Sights That Inspired Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams

Towering rock formations of Plaza Blanca.

Join us on a virtual road trip to the outstanding landscapes and culture of New Mexico that inspired painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Ansel Adams.

When travel in person isn’t possible, we can travel virtually via photography and other visual art. In turn, art can inspire us to travel and explore. Just like some works of art are more striking, some landscapes inspire more than others. Northern New Mexico is one of those natural wonders.

The painter Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Ansel Adams were both inspired by the stunning landscapes and the adobe-style architecture found in New Mexico. Despite working in very different media and styles, they were both considered Modernists and part of the movement that switched their creative focus from cities like New York out west to the vast rural landscapes of New Mexico and California. Naturally, they were also both outdoor enthusiasts – and inspired by what draws us outside.

Rio Chama, New Mexico.

During the 1930s and 40s Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, the art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, spend a lot of time in Taos and at Ghost Ranch. Photographer Ansel Adams, who also worked with Stieglitz, would visit at times. Later on, as a widow, O’Keeffe made the region her permanent home: both at Ghost Ranch and at her house in Abiquiú. The last few years of her life, she spent in nearby Santa Fe.

When it comes to trying to capture the stunning, soothing, and invigorating beauty of nature, we couldn’t agree more with O’Keeffe’s statement about New Mexico: “Out here, half your work is done for you.”

The colorful landscape at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.

You can make up your own mind as you come along on this digital road trip through the northern part of New Mexico, from Taos along the Rio Grande, past Hernandez (see Ansel Adams’ celebrated photo Moonrise), to Abiquiú and Plaza Blanca. Then on along the Rio Chama to the Abquiú Reservoir at the feet of Cerro Pedernal (Georgia O’Keeffe’s “private mountain”) and finally to the famous Ghost Ranch.

Throughout this post, we have added links to related art work by the two artists.

Now please let yourself feel inspired to create, to travel, or to just let your mind go on a relaxing virtual road trip through the stunning New Mexico landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.

Taos Pueblo Classic Georgia O'Keeffe view
The view Georgia O’Keeffe painted in 1929 of Taos Pueblo, the ancient and living community of Native Americans outside the town of Taos.
Pubelo Taos Blue Doors and Ladder, New Mexico, Ansel Adams photography, inspiration
Pubelo Taos Doors – reminiscent of photographs of the same structures by Ansel Adams in the 1940s.
Doors, stairs and ladder reaching into the blue sky at UNESCO World Heritage Site Taos Pueblo, New Mexico.
Doors, stairs and ladder reaching into the blue sky at UNESCO World Heritage Site Taos Pueblo, New Mexico.
Taos Pueblo Church - famously photographed by Ansel Adams without color
Taos Pueblo Church. The Taos New Church was photographed by Ansel Adams without color.
This one was very quickly photographed by Luci in-between people constantly walking through those doors and gate.
Native American woman, Taos Pueblo church, woven blanket, white wall gate with cross, merchant man, New Mexico, black and white
Locals in front of the Taos Pueblo church gate.
Wooden cemetery crosses and fence post crosses and a burgundy heart at Taos Pueblo cemetery, New Mexico
Cemetery crosses, fence crosses and a heart in Taos. One of Ansel Adams’ most famous New Mexico photos is of the Moonrise over Hernandez with a church and cemetery in the foreground. This is not that cemetery.
Roadside view of Rio Grande between Taos and Española, New Mexico.
Roadside view of the Rio Grande between Taos and Española, New Mexico.
View from Georgia O'Keeffe's house in Abiquiu of cottonwood trees and mountains beyond
View from Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Abiquiú of cottonwood trees and mountains beyond. And is that a glimpse of Plaza Blanca in the valley?
Plaza Blanca, white rock formation wall
Nearly unbelievable white rock formation wall in Plaza Blanca – near Georgia O’Keeffe home in Abiquiú.
Detail of white rock formation in Plaza Blanca, New Mexico.
Detail of white rock formation in Plaza Blanca, New Mexico. Beware that this place is on the private property of the Dar Al Islam Center, who have kindly allowed visitors to see this stunning place off the beaten path. Thank you!
A natural rock formation frames more white rock pillars against in the valley Georgia O'Keeffe called The White Place aka Plaza Blanca. Access via dirt road on the private land of the Dar Al Islam Center, New Mexico.
A natural rock formation frames white rock pillars and blue sky. Shapes and colors that inspired Georgia O’Keeffe when she painted in The White Place aka Plaza Blanca.
Black birds atop white rock pillars in Plaza Blanca - a place often painted by Georgia O'Keeffe, who lived nearby in Abiquiu, New Mexico.
Black birds atop rock pillars in Plaza Blanca, New Mexico.
Blue Bird bringing color to The White Place, New Mexico.
Blue Bird bringing color to The White Place.
View of Rio Chama along the road from Abiquiu to Ghost Ranch, popular with Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe
View of river-bend of the Rio Chama along the road from Abiquiú to Ghost Ranch, popular with Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Island in the stream of the Rio Chama - with the trees and shrubs showing the first hint of spring green. New Mexico
Island in the stream of the Rio Chama – with the trees and shrubs showing the first hint of spring green.
fly-fishing at the Rio Chama just below the dam of the Abiquiú Reservoir.
Scott fly-fishing at the Rio Chama just below the dam of the Abiquiú Reservoir. And yes, Scott is wearing a Happier Place Burlap Trucker Hat. Good eye!
Rio Chama carves its way in-between red rock walls.
Rio Chama carves its way in-between red rock walls.
Nature creating art in extraordinary rock formations along the Rio Chama river.
Nature creating art in extraordinary rock formations along the Chama River.
On the road to Ghost Ranch, the Rio Chama view painted by Georgia O'Keeffe as the river snakes from the mountains, between red rock hills and green shrubs.
On the road to Ghost Ranch, the Rio Chama view painted by Georgia O’Keeffe as the river snakes from the mountains, between red rock hills and green shrubs.
Dirt road leads from the Chama River up into the colorful hills painted by O'Keeffe
A dirt road leads from the Chama River up into the same colorful hills seen in the previous photo.
Abiquiu Lake, reservoir, Cerro Pedernal peak, New Mexico
Abiquiú Lake and the flat peak of Cerro Pedernal, about which Georgia O’Keeffe said: “It’s my private mountain. It belongs to me. God told me if I painted it enough, I could have it.”
Pink spring blossoms high above Abiquiú Lake on what is probably a Western Redbud.
Pink spring blossoms high above Abiquiú Lake on what is probably a Western Redbud.
Colorful, natural roadside attractions on the way to Ghost Ranch, New Mexico
Colorful, natural roadside attractions on the way up to Ghost Ranch.
New Mexico road from the village of Abiquiú to Ghost Ranch made famous by artists Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams.
New Mexico road from the village of Abiquiú to Ghost Ranch made famous by artists Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams.

The photo above and some of our other New Mexico photos are featured on Happier Place postcards and other products listed below. Check them, get them, send them – make someone happier (including you).


Colorful red, yellow and white mesa against blue sky along the road to ghost ranch, New Mexico
In theory you don’t even have to stop: you could just enjoy the incredible landscape as you drive by.
Sentinel rock wall along Highway US-84 close to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.
Sentinel rock wall along Highway US-84 close to Ghost Ranch in New Mexico.
Big sky, vast land and dramatic rock formations: Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.
Big sky, vast land and dramatic rock formations: you have arrived at the iconic Ghost Ranch. Once a creative playground for artists like Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe, today it’s a retreat center owned by the Presbyterian Church. Fortunately, you’re still invited to get creative here!
Mesa and tree at Ghost Ranch, Ansel Adams style in black and white
Mesa and tree at Ghost Ranch, Ansel Adams style in black and white.
Intricate rock formations of Ghost Ranch invite black and white photography like Ansel Adams created...
Intricate rock formations of Ghost Ranch invite black and white photography like Ansel Adams created…
... but then you wouldn't capture all the different shades of these stunning mesas ar... but in black and white photos you wouldn't capture all the different shades of these stunning mesas around Ghost Farm! What do you prefer?ound Ghost Farm!
… but in black and white photos you wouldn’t capture all the different shades of these stunning mesas around Ghost Farm!
What do you prefer?
Camel Rock Formation near Santa Fe, New Mexico
No road trip without at least one quirky road side attraction: Camel Rock Formation near Santa Fe. Easy to locate at the Camel Rock Casino.

A note on the timing. We went on this road trip in late April, our favorite travel month. But it wasn’t April of this year, when we like most people are staying home due to the coronavirus safety restrictions.

We also didn’t go on this particular road trip because of Ansel Adams of Georgia O’Keeffe. We were just freely exploring. As we discovered a few of these stunning sites, we began to trust that: where those artists found inspiration, we would surely feel awed as well. So we ended up seeking out more off-the-beaten-path places like Plaza Blanca on-the-fly.

We hope seeing these photos made you a little happier. Please be safe while you do more of what makes you happier!


Let’s Inspire Each Other!

Have you ever traveled to a location that became famous through an artist? Did it live up to your expectation?
Have you been to New Mexico? Tell us about your favorite places.
Are you making plans for future travel and exploration? Where do you want to go next?

Please leave a reply in the comment section below.


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The Sights That Inspired Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams in New Mexico, Plaza Blanca, Pueblo Taos
explore the places that inspired georgia o'keeffe and ansel adams, new mexico, virtual road trip, happier place, ghost farm, trail, red rocks
Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, adobe pueblo architecture, ladder to the sky, staircase, blue door, wooden door, Ansel Adams inspiration, Happier Place
Road Trip through the landscapes that inspired American Artists Ansel Adams and Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico, USA, Chimney Rock, Ghost Ranch, Happier Place

All photos were taken by Luci Westphal.

New Mexico: The Sights That Inspired Georgia O\'Keeffe and Ansel AdamsNew Mexico: The Sights That Inspired Georgia O\'Keeffe and Ansel AdamsNew Mexico: The Sights That Inspired Georgia O\'Keeffe and Ansel AdamsNew Mexico: The Sights That Inspired Georgia O\'Keeffe and Ansel Adams

9 thoughts on “New Mexico: The Sights That Inspired Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams

  1. I’ve never been to New Mexico when in the US, but I’m so inspired to go now, it looks so beautiful. I also wasn’t that familiar with Georgia O’Keefe before reading this, and am intrigued to find out more. I can see why they were so inspired too.

  2. I have never been to New Mexico, but you make me want to go right now! It is breathtaking!

  3. Those vistas and landscapes are just so awesome. I prefer colour, so you get that feel of the real beauty and you can feel the sun, the dry wind an feel like you’re actually there.

  4. oh my! No wonder the place inspired Okeeffe, it is GORGEOUS!!! I would love to go there one day, can’t wait.

    1. That’s exactly what we thought. Initially, we weren’t there following O’Keeffe’s footsteps but after seeing a little bit of what inspired her, we sought out more places for our “randomly roaming day”. Hope you get to go one day, too.

  5. The landscape is beautiful! Those rock formations are definitely a sight to see. Black and white photography is neat, but with a place like this, I’d prefer photos of the place in color.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kristine. Good to read your thoughts about the color photography. In theory, I thought it was a tough call, which is why I included the comparison photos. But in practice, I couldn’t imagine sharing all those photos in black and white, without the stunning colors either.

  6. New Mexico looks absolutely breath taking. It is very true, the natural world possesses so much beauty, intrigue and is best left untouched. Look at those rock formations!

  7. New Mexico is the kind of state that I have dreamed of since my childhood for its history so strongly linked to the land … you made me dream, I hope one day to visit these places.

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