Are artists particularly creative when it comes to cooking? A look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s whole food cuisine in the desert of New Mexico.

Alice Waters, chef and co-founder of the famous Cali­fornian slow food restau­rant Chez Panisse, describes the rela­tion­ship between cooking and art as follows: “The most literal visceral connec­tion we make is with food… The acts of art-making and cooking align in many ways; both reac­tive and creative, they mimic and accom­mo­date one another.” 

So, is there a connec­tion between what happens in artists’ studios and what goes on in their kitchens? Amid all the pots and pans, can we find points of refer­ences to their work and their person­al­i­ties? Are artists partic­u­larly creative when it comes to the everyday act of cooking? Through photos and inven­to­ries of their kitchens, as well as anec­dotes relating to their eating habits, we will try to gain an insight into the culi­nary worlds of some well-known artists. 

This episode we take a look at artist Georgia O’Keeffe. She is considered one of the best-known female painters of the 20th century, a pioneer of US-American Modernism, and became particularly known for her large-format landscape paintings. O’Keeffe was fascinated by the desert of New Mexico, where she had her main residence from 1949 to her death in 1986. Here, her close connection with nature manifested itself both in her own work and in her lifestyle.

Georgia O’Keeffe cutting herbs, New Mexico 1960 by Tony Vaccaro © Tony Vaccaro / Tony Vaccaro Studio

After extensive renovation, the small adobe house became her retreat. She furnished the rooms in a minimalist style using natural tones and steered the focus towards the surrounding landscape through panoramic windows. The large, bright open-plan kitchen with access to the garden was the hub and heart of the home: Here she ground grains, baked bread, dried herbs, made jam, prepared yoghurt, and pickled and fermented fruit and vegetables. Long before sustainable, ecological food became a trend, O’Keeffe was living by those principles.

O’Keeffe was firmly convinced that healthy, wholesome food had a positive influence on creativity.  She is said to have asked artist John Marin, who she respected highly, what he had eaten for breakfast on the days he produced three of her favorite paintings. O’Keeffe herself drank Tiger’s Milk regularly in the morning, a smoothie developed by nutrition pioneer Adelle Davis combining yoghurt, fresh milk, banana, protein powder, frozen berries, beer yeast and wheatgerms. The extent to which this fueled her own creative process remains unclear, but her health certainly seems to have benefited: She lived to 96.

Photo: Herb Lotz, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu House, The Pantry, 2007. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (RC.2009.002.033). © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Image via

Photo: Herb Lotz, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu House, The Pantry, 2007. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum (RC.2009.002.030). © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Image via

Not only the procurement of fresh, seasonal ingredients, but also the aesthetic aspect of her meals played an essential role in her everyday life. On the shelves of her spacious pantry she piled plates, bowls, glasses and pots made of ceramic, porcelain and glass, which O’Keeffe combined with place mats made of raffia, simple white cotton napkins and stainless steel cutlery: an elegant yet restrained backdrop on which her carefully prepared dishes could take center-stage.

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