In the early 1930s, when O'Keeffe first began making paintings of bones and skulls, critics viewed them as symbols of death. Yet her ideas about this subject were very different, as she later explained:
To me they are as beautiful as anything I know. To me they are strangely more living than the animals walking around - hair, eyes and all with their tails switching. The bones seem to cut sharply to the center of something that is keenly alive on the desert even though it is vast and empty and untouchable - and knows no kindness with all its beauty."