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Marilyn and I hit it off. It was agreed that she would call me
as soon as Georgia’s vitamin pills arrived from New York! She
asked me to think of something I would like to give Georgia
as a present. Marilyn invited me out the following days and
Saturday morning she called and came to pick me up. We
talked and talked all the way. Marilyn made a sharp turn
and we halted in front of the same fence, where I‘d stood the
previous Monday. The dogs started barking. If Juan Hamilton
had been there, we wouldn’t have had any hope at all. He
never let anybody in! He wasn’t there. I had brought my
favourite silk vest which I had knitted of homespun silk and
dyed in indigo as a present. Marilyn asked for the vest and
armed with that and a Hawaiian papaya, one of her friends
had sent to give to Georgia, she disappeared behind the fence.
Two minutes later, she came running out saying Georgia
wanted to meet me. She had asked, if I was from Denmark
and had been there earlier that week. The dogs grovelled and
behind the big glass window stood Georgia, supported by her
cane. She took my hand and asked me, why I had given her
a vest. I said that I had seen her in several pictures, but never
wearing anything made of crochet, and I hoped she liked it.
A little smile appeared at her mouth, she sat down and pulled
out a chair, so that I could sit close beside her. She asked
about my travels, and how wonderful it is to have friends to
visit in foreign countries, but that her’s were all dead. She told
me about her seven chow-chows and kept on returning to the
subject of the Ghost Ranch, which she considered the most
beautiful place on earth. She was glad that I would be able to
go out and see the place for myself, and felt on my shoes to
see if I was in good physical shape! We talked about silk and
I explained how I’d made the vest. Behind me was a red silk
shawl, she wanted me to feel. We ate papaya and spoke of our
travels. I sat there enjoyíng being in her presence. She was so
old, yet so beautiful and exuding such a powerful strength of
character - an energy to go on living that was almost painful.
There was a fragrance of pine from the freplace. The room
was entirely white. Two huge blue paintings and the red silk
shawl were the only strong colours in the otherwise neutral
room. Only Juan Hamilton’s gigantic egg-shaped sculptures
stood out strongly in the bare room. I was content just sitting
beside her, soaking up the atmosphere - an atmosphere that
spoke of what a life really is. The hour I had with Georgia
was full of a special power and signifcance that I have never
forgotten. It wasn’t so much the meaning of the words them-
selves, but the sense of what was going on between the words.
Marilyn and I drove out to Ghost Ranch, an hour’s drive
from Abiquiu. Georgia herself did not go out there anymore.
The ranch was too isolated, and there wasn’t anyone there
to look after her. The place was badly in need of repairs.
We walked around in the absolute silence of the surround-
ings. The high red mountains seemed to move of their own
accord. Horses ran free and grazed. The world stood still. On
the way back I asked Marilyn, why she didn’t want to live out
here with Georgia from time to time, as she’d been invited to
do. But Marilyn was afraid to be there on her own. But what
if I joined her? There was nothing she’d like better!!
So we went back and made plans for Georgia. Georgia was a
bit disappointed, when I told her, I wouldn’t be able to come
until September. (this was January 1983).
Georgia’s health deteriorated during 1983, and she was
forced to move to Santa Fe. So we never got to go to Ghost
Ranch. Georgia O’Keeffe died on March 1986, aged 98,
I am very grateful for the little time I spent with Georgia
O’Keeffe. I have never before or afterwards felt such a
powerful radiance from another person. Meeting her was
one of the greatest experiences in my life. It is hard to put
into words an experience as moving as this was. Any attempt
to put it into words seems to diminish it a little. I kept silent
about my meeting with this legend of the American art world
for 12 years.
Today I can tell that I had decided that if I met with Georgia
O’Keeffe I would live my life painting. If I did not meet her I
would have continued as an art historian.
Anne Vilsbøll, 1995
From the catalogue “Conversation with Georgia O’Keeffe”