“To me they are as beautiful as anything I know. To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around… . The bones seem to cut more sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even tho’ it is vast and empty and untouchable—and knows no kindness with all its beauty.”
Georgia O'Keeffe painted Cow’s Skull with Calico Roses just a year after a drought devastated the American Southwest. The bleached bones of starved animals dotted the landscape surrounding her studio in New Mexico, and became symbolic objects to O'Keeffe. This skull is adorned with the cloth flowers traditionally laid out to decorate desert graves. A grim subject, but rendered with O'Keeffe’s signature delicacy and clarity—hard and soft, life and death, together, inseparable.
Reed Enger, "Cow's Skull with Calico Roses," in Obelisk Art History, Published August 14, 2018; last modified May 20, 2020, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/georgia-okeeffe/cows-skull-with-calico-roses/.