“Georgia O’Keeffe hitching a ride to Abiquiu, Ghost Ranch, 1944″ AKA ”Women Who Rode Away.” –Image by Maria Chabot @Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. The painter, Maurice Grosser, visited his friend O’Keeffe’s ranch in 1944. Maria Chabot photographed O’Keeffe and Grosser on his 1938 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. It’s an amazing image that celebrates denim, machine, and the joy of the open road. That look on O’Keeffe’s face says it all.
Initially I was interested solely in wanting to know more about the superficial circumstances around this incredible image. You know– the motorcycle, driver, etc. It soon became very clear that there was/is this unresolved, controversial account of the exact nature of Chabot and O’Keefe’s friendship that’s fascinating in itself, and added mystery and tension to this incredible shot and the close connection between the two women. There has been speculation for decades that they were involved in an intimate same-sex relationship. There are those convinced that Maria Chabot was obsessed with O’Keeffe to the point of being jealous, possessive, and an embellisher of their history together in order to paint the relationship as she wished it were. And then there are the close to 700 hauntingly personal letters written by the two women, back and forth to one another, that more than hint to something deeper than just friendship. Eventually O’Keeffe matter-of-factly requested that Chabot leave her Abiquiu house for good unless personally invited back by O’Keeffe herself. So, what really happened?