ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The eighth in the “High Desert Field Guides” series carries a title linking geology to art – “Abiquiu: The Geologic History of O’Keeffe Country.”
The invitation to geology is through Georgia O’Keeffe, perhaps the most famous female painter of the 20th century. Many of O’Keeffe’s stunning paintings in northern New Mexico were of the rock formations in the Abiquiú region of Rio Arriba County. The region includes Abiquiú and Ghost Ranch, where the artist had homes/studios.
The guide is not centrally about art or O’Keeffe; it’s about the region’s changing landscape over 300 million years of geologic time. The region – in particular the iconic Cerro Pedernal butte – is at the juncture of the Rio Grande Rift, the Colorado Plateau and the Jemez Mountains volcanic field, geologist Kirt Kempter writes in the guide’s helpful explanatory text.
“The older rocks of Abiquiú tell the story of past landscapes and environments very different from today, including subtropical oceans, vast sand dunes, and Mississippian-scale rivers,” Kempter explained.