There is a region of the Bisti Badlands, in northwestern New Mexico, that looks like the surface of a remote planet. It is almost totally devoid of life and is made up of strangely furrowed hills. In some areas, the chaotic tumble of rocks and stones is punctuated by large, smooth, bulbous projections that resemble the backs of whales. There are whites, greens, yellows, and purples, but the dominant color is black. This is the museland that Georgia O’Keeffe called the Black Place.
The artist made many trips there, beginning in the 1930s, and created a handful of luminous, bizarre paintings based on what she witnessed. Among the people inspired by these works is photographer Walter W. Nelson, whose images made over the