Archive for the 'Curatorial' Category

Piecing Together “Ida O’Keeffe”

Too obscure to be acquired by major museums during the artist’s lifetime, Ida O’Keeffe’s artworks ended up in some interesting places. Sue Canterbury—curator of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow and The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art—spent more than four years tracking down information about Ida, Georgia O’Keeffe’s younger sister. She gleaned information from archives across the country and from passing mentions in Georgia’s biographies, but along the way big and small contributions from strangers provided key pieces to the puzzle.

Michael Stipe, the musician best known as the lead singer of R.E.M., approached a DMA curator at an event in New York City and said he heard the Museum was organizing an exhibition on Ida O’Keeffe. Well, he had a photograph of Ida by Alfred Stieglitz.

Alfred Stieglitz, Ida O’Keeffe, 1924, gelatin silver print, Collection of Michael Stipe

Whirl of Life (1936) is owned by a woman who lives in New Mexico, but her sister lives in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. She heard about the DMA’s plans, called her sister, and, according to Canterbury, said something along the lines of “Hey, you know that painting you have in your closet?”

The owners of Black Lilies (1945) and Portrait of a Banana Tree (c. 1942) are sisters from Whittier, California, where Ida spent the last 19 years of her life. One of the sisters took painting lessons from Ida, and the artist was a close friend of the family.

Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow, installation view, Dallas Museum of Art, on view November 18, 2018–February 24, 2019

Aside from finding paintings, it was also critical to gather biographical information in order to create a timeline of the artist’s life and get a sense of her personality. There wasn’t any anecdotal evidence of what Ida was like as a teenager. Then, one day, a man messaged Sue to share that his great aunts were Ida’s classmates at Chatham Hall in Virginia, where she went to high school, and he had letters that described what a popular girl she was—a member of the basketball team, tennis team, and glee club. Canterbury had no idea where Ida was during the 1937–38 academic year, until a woman called to say her mother rented out a bedroom in New York City that year to Ida O’Keeffe.

And then there are the lighthouses . . . 

In 2013 Canterbury was visiting the home of a collector in Dallas when she noticed an abstract painting of a lighthouse. She considered the work very strong but couldn’t identify the artist. She asked the collector, who replied, “Ida O’Keeffe,” and Canterbury was stunned. Thus began the five-year quest to collect information on an ignored O’Keeffe sister with the hope of mounting the museum exhibition that Ida never got in her lifetime.

Based on documents, Canterbury knew that Ida had completed seven paintings of the Highland Lighthouse in Massachusetts. By 2016 she had located five. The two missing lighthouses she only knew from descriptions: one, a realistic depiction, was the first one Ida executed, and the other was an abstracted depiction in red. Out of the blue, she got a call from celebrity jewelry designer Neil Lane. He had the red lighthouse painting, which he had purchased at a flea market in Los Angeles around 25 years ago.

Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme VI, c. 1931–32, oil on canvas, Collection of Neil Lane

Even though the exhibition has opened, new information is still trickling in. Canterbury expected that would happen and she encourages people to reach out, especially if they own an excellent painting of a certain Cape Cod lighthouse.

See Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow at the DMA through February 24, 2019.

Lillian Michel is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

The Artful Overlapping of Old and Modern Iran

A work by Houston-based Iranian-American artist Soody Sharifi is now on view in the Keir Collection of Islamic Art Gallery. Courtly Love, an archival inkjet print from 2007, is an adaptation of a 15th-century painting in the Keir Collection. The original painting is an illustration of a tale from the Khamsa of Nizami, a collection of five tragic love poems. It depicts a scene from the romance of the Iranian king Khusraw and Armenian princess Shirin. Drunk and guilty of an amorous tryst, Khusraw has arrived at Shirin’s palace on horseback. Shirin, peering out from a window, is counseled by an older woman and refuses him entry. The scene is witnessed by a variety of attendants, including three scribes holding poetic manuscripts below. A darker mood is also present; anxious angels who know the inevitable tragic outcome of the story hover at upper left, while two gardeners with golden shovels foreshadow the twin graves in which the lovers will lie for eternity.

Khusraw at Shirin’s Palace, painting from a manuscript of Nizami’s Khamsa, last quarter of the 15th century, ink, colors and gold on paper, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the DMA, K.1.2014.738

Courtly Love is one of a series of works that Sharifi has termed “Maxiatures,” a play on the term “miniatures” that is commonly used to describe the small format of Islamic book paintings. Sharifi’s works are large. For them, she has selected well-known examples of architectural paintings that illustrate Persian literary classics, such as the Khamsa, to serve as a basis for adaptation through the addition of new figures taken from photography. She also works with the architectural elements in the original image, changing their scale and contents. In this work, some of the original painted figures have vanished, and those that remain become unwitting bystanders to a new cast of figures inserted into the scene: contemporary, young Iranians, mainly women, going about daily tasks. These include making a call at a phone booth, jumping rope, playing with a hula-hoop, painting toenails, installing a satellite dish, and looking over the balustrades and through windows. Three young men speak to the women from outside the garden walls—the circumscribed formalities of courtly love referenced in the title of the work, and perhaps referring to the themes of the original painting.

Soody Sharifi, Courtly Love, 2007, archival inkjet print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Richard and Glen de Unger in gratitude to Walter Elcock for his attentiveness and support for the Keir Collection, 2018.40

Sharifi’s work appears to be concerned with issues of dual identities, of a past and present that is especially acute for Iranians of her generation who were exiled by the revolution of 1979. Given that the figures in her works are young, this may represent the nostalgia of young Iranians today who still live in proximity to the elegant palaces and gardens depicted in historical paintings, perhaps inhabited now only by ghosts, like the figures in 15th-century paintings. Her concern with dualities—of language, of national identity, of traditions and contemporary technologies, of political tensions—seems to be present in this work, where contemporaneity hovers over a past that can no longer be reached. Certainly, there is also a sense of humor—it is clever and funny to see modern people in these poetical constructs.

Soody Sharifi’s work is displayed in the Keir Collection Gallery alongside the painting that inspired it so that the public can appreciate her interventions, decode her intentions, and enjoy the presence of both works of art at once. Join Sharifi in person as she shares insights into Courtly Love at our next Late Night on February 15.

Heather Ecker is The Marguerite S. Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the DMA.

 

Ruth Pershing Uhler: A Texas Woman Artist to Know

Why do some women artists become famous while others become footnotes in art history textbooks? That is the topic of discussion in The O’Keeffe Sisters and Women of American Modernism, a series of short talks at the DMA on February 2. Few art history scholars knew Georgia O’Keeffe had a younger sister named Ida who was also an artist, and whose work is now exhibited in Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow. Ahead of the talks, we thought we would take a look at another woman modernist in the DMA collection you probably haven’t heard of: Ruth Pershing Uhler.

Ruth Pershing Uhler was born in a small town in Pennsylvania in 1895. Uhler and her family moved to Houston in 1909, but she returned to Pennsylvania to study art. Receiving the proper training was the first hurdle women had to clear to become artists. Women were often encouraged to study “lesser” mediums like watercolor instead of oil, and art was seen as part of a woman’s aesthetic training to create a beautiful home rather than as a career. Uhler didn’t settle for these expectations. She studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (and did learn to work in oil), and after graduating she obtained a fellowship that provided her with her own studio and the ability to paint and exhibit art in Philadelphia. She worked in Philadelphia for 11 years before returning to Houston in 1925 and exhibiting across Texas in the 1920s and 30s.

Ruth Pershing Uhler, Earth Rhythms, c. 1935, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Texas Artists Fund, 2018.10, © Estate of Ruth Pershing Uhler

In 1935 Uhler went to Santa Fe with friend and fellow Texas artist Grace Spaulding John. The landscape of New Mexico inspired a series of nine paintings that Uhler completed after returning to Houston the next year. Earth Rhythms (c. 1935), recently acquired by the DMA, belongs to this series. While it is possible Uhler saw and responded to the work of Georgia O’Keeffe, Uhler’s paintings—with undulating forms that glow with an almost spiritual quality—are also reminiscent of Transcendentalists like Raymond Johnson and Agnes Pelton, who were working in New Mexico during the same period. Uhler’s series was exhibited in 1936 at the Twelfth Annual Exhibition of Houston Artists.

Uhler teaching in the MFAH galleries c. 1950. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Archives.

At the time, it was impossible for a woman to support herself as a full-time painter without a gallery to represent her and sell her art, so most women artists took second jobs. Uhler became a teacher at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) in 1937, and in 1941 she became the MFAH’s first curator of education, a position she held until just before her death in 1967. In the same way that Ida O’Keeffe held nursing and teaching jobs on and off her entire life, being an art educator provided Uhler with financial stability, independence, and creative fulfillment. She was hugely influential in the growth of the MFAH’s education programs, but the demands of her job led her to abandon painting.

Curiously, one day in 1940 Uhler intentionally destroyed many of her paintings in a fire. She built the bonfire in the backyard of Grace Spaulding John’s house, which she had been house-sitting. John’s daughter saw her and asked what she was doing. Uhler officially ended her career as a painter that day, remarking, “Well, I only want my best work to survive.” Consequently, her works are few and difficult to find today.

As art historians reconsider the influence of women artists in modernist movements, and as Texas artists are given more serious attention, artists like Uhler will become more popular. It takes time and a conscious effort on the part of curators to shine a light on under-recognized women artists, but we get a fuller and more realistic view of art history when women’s work is recovered from the margins.

Lillian Michel is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at the DMA.

Artworks Aplenty

This week the DMA’s beloved Late Night program turns sixteen! In celebration of each year the program has been around, let’s take a look at artworks that were added to the permanent collection during those years—they are also currently on display, so be sure to keep a lookout for them when you’re here for Late Night!

2004

Olowe of Ise, Kneeling female figure with bowl (olumeye), Nigeria, c. 1910-c. 1938, wood, pigment, and paint, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2004.16.McD

2005

Sugar bowl, Lebolt & Co., Chicago, Illinois, c. 1915, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Marguerite and Robert K. Hoffman in honor of Nancy Hamon, 2005.51.5.a-b

2006

Buddha Sakyamuni, Thailand, Khmer, c. 13th century, gilded bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and Bromberg Family Wendover Fund, 2006.21

2007

Mark Handforth, Dallas Snake, 2007, steel, aluminum, and glass lamp head, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund and Lay Family Acquisition Fund, 2007.39

2008

Window with Sea Anemone (“Summer”), Louis Comfort Tiffany (designer), Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company (manufacturer), New York, New York, c. 1885-95, glass, lead, iron, and wooden frame (original), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 2008.21.1.McD

2009

Box, John Nicholas Otar (designer), c. 1933, copper and brass, Dallas Museum of Art, Discretionary Decorative Arts Fund, 2009.7.a-b

2010

Nandi, India, c. 13th century, granite, Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund and gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, 2010.6

2011

François-Auguste Biard, Seasickness on an English Corvette, 1857, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J. E. R. Chilton, 2011.27

2012

Marriage necklace, India, Tamil Nadu, late 19th century, gold, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley honoring Dr. Anne Bromberg via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2012.46

2013

Guillaume Lethière, Erminia and the Shepherds, 1795, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2013.1.FA

2014

Antoine-Augustin Préault, Silence, c. 1842, patinated plaster, Dallas Museum of Art, The Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt Fund and General Acquisitions Fund, 2014.10

2015

Bust of Herakles, Roman, Lambert Sigisbert Adam (restorer), 1st century-2nd century CE, marble, Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, and Bromberg Family Wendover Fund, 2015.31

2016

Tomb plaque marker on a tortoise base, China, c. 219-c. 316 CE, limestone, Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2016.33.a-b

2017

Jonas Wood, Untitled (Big Yellow One), 2010, oil on linen, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Vernon and Amy Faulconer, 2017.45.2, © Jonas Wood

2018

Pair of six-panel folding screens depicting “The Tale of Genji,” Japan, Kano School, 16th-17th century, ink and color on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, Bromberg Family Wendover Fund, and the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2018.21.1-2

Valerie Chang is the McDermott Intern for Adult Programming at the DMA.

Re-creating a Roman Feast

On Tuesday, December 11, archaeologist and food writer Farrell Monaco will be here for a talk and feast exploring ancient Roman cuisine. Monaco is the author of a celebrated food blog, Tavola Mediterranea, in which she explores recipes from across the Mediterranean and even re-creates recipes from the archaeological record.

In what has become a tradition for the Adult Programs team whenever we have a program about food, we tried our hand at making a few of the recipes featured in Tavola Mediterranea. You can find our other cooking attempts here, here, here, and here.

Katie Cooke, Manager of Adult Programs
When scrolling through the blog, the Libum caught my eye. I think because of a distant memory about the sweet bread that the Romans ate, from my days learning Latin. I also thought that the idea of an ancient cheesecake drizzled with honey couldn’t be that bad, even with my amateur baking skills.

The ingredients list could not have been easier to assemble. The base for the bread was only three things: eggs, flour, and ricotta. I had Great British Bake Off in the background, so I was reminded to let it proof and not knead it into a stiff mass.

While the dough was resting, I arranged the bay leaves on the bottom of the pans so that the bread would sit on them and soak up all the delicious, savory flavor.

I split the dough between two pans as the recipe says, and it’s a good thing Farrell specified that, because the baking time is already an hour—I would’ve been up very late if all that dough was baked in one loaf! The fun part was decorating the tops with pine nuts.

The finished product was very nicely browned loaves of dense cake/bread. I drizzled them with honey and then used some for dipping. I would recommend keeping a lot of honey on the side when eating this. I thought that the bay leaves were going to give it a little more flavor, but overall the taste of the bread is very neutral.

What I learned: If I were part of an ancient civilization, I would have worshiped honey because it makes even the simplest of breads sugary and delectable.

Jessie Carrillo, Manager of Adult Programs
From the moment I saw Vatia’s Fig-Stuffed Pastry Piglets, I knew I had to make them. While not directly drawn from an ancient source, this dish is not too far off from something that the Romans would have eaten, and the combination of ingredients sounded tasty.

I started by making a dough from whole wheat flour, olive oil, and water. While the dough rested in the fridge, I sliced two portions of pork tenderloin, pounded them with a meat mallet until they were very thin, and seasoned them.

Next I combined dried figs with salt, pepper, and honey in a food processor, spread the mixture on the pork pieces, and then rolled them up like a couple of Ho Hos®. I rolled out my dough until it was about the thickness of a pie crust and cut pieces large enough to wrap around the pork, as well as some smaller pieces that I fashioned into my piglets’ ears, noses, and tails.

After wrapping each piece of pork in pastry and decorating the piglets, I followed the author’s advice and threw them into the oven without naming them. After about 30 minutes at 400 degrees, the piglets came out sadly missing their tails, but otherwise adorable and surprisingly yummy!

What I learned: Meat wrapped in pastry dough has always been delicious, and cooking is even more fun when you combine it with sculpture.

Stacey Lizotte, DMA League Director of Adult Programs
I decided to make Apicius’ Tiropatina (Tiropatinam), which is an egg custard, because it only had three ingredients (six if you count the garnishes), and because I was curious about what flavor and texture you would get in a custard from just eggs, milk, and honey (instead of sugar).

You would think three ingredients would make this a simple recipe, but it was VERY time consuming—literally a two-day process (so if patience is not a virtue of yours, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe).

Once the three ingredients were combined, there was a lot of custard mixture—A LOT. There was no way the mixture I had would only make 18 small custards like the recipe said. If you want to make that amount, I would recommend at least halving this recipe. The one step I added is that I strained my custard mixture before putting it in the tins. I do this for any custard or curd that I make, and I feel that it’s important in order to get a smooth texture.

I didn’t have a pudding tin and my muffin pans were too large to put in a water bath, so I decided to use my mini cheesecake pan. I didn’t take into account how watery this mixture is compared to a cake batter so, as you can see, during the baking process a few of my custards seeped out of the pan.

I often find egg custards too “eggy” for my taste, but these custards actually had a light flavor that I found appealing. I attribute that to the honey. I also enjoyed the black pepper on top—clearly those Romans knew what they were doing.

What I learned: A water bath is essential for baking custards. Since I had so much extra batter, I decided to make a batch of custards in a muffin tin but without a water bath and the result was  horrible.

If you would like to learn more about Roman cooking and enjoy a Roman Feast, you can purchase your tickets for the event here.

Some Assembly Required

Have you ever wandered through the galleries at the DMA and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder how they got this huge sculpture up those steps?” or “Wow! I bet it was really hard to hang that giant painting!” If you have, this post is for you! In one of the DMA’s newest installations, Women + Design: New Works, there are several pieces that required significant effort on the part of the DMA’s Collections team to install. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos and fun facts from the installation process, and visit the Museum to see these works in person—and for FREE—now through Sunday, February 17, 2019, in the Mary Noel and Bill Lamont Gallery.

Iris 3Objects Conservator Fran Baas adjusts the laser-cut polyester lace on Iris van Herpen’s Voltage Dress.

Najla 1A team of preparators works on lowering the two pieces of Najla El Zein’s Seduction onto the platform. Each piece of the sculpture weighs approximately 1,500 pounds and needs to be moved with a gantry crane. The lower stone was placed first, and then the upper stone had to be carefully lowered onto it.

Mobile 1Fran Baas, Lance Lander, and Mike Hill review the instructions for assembling Faye Toogood’s Tools for Life Mobile 2. Because the components of the mobile are heavy, the team had to know exactly what to do to minimize unnecessary handling.

Mobile 2Mike Hill and John Lendvay work to assemble Tools for Life Mobile 2 as it hangs from the ceiling.

DougDoug Velek takes measurements for the two pieces of jewelry by Katie Collins. Prior to installing the work, the preparators made the wedges and lifts used to display the jewelry in the exhibition. After confirming that the necklaces were centered on the wedge, preparators used pins to secure them in place.

SS and RSCurator Sarah Schleuning and preparator Russell Sublette discuss the placement of the three stools by Faye Toogood.

Katie Province is an Assistant Registrar for Collections and Exhibitions at the DMA.

Time Travel at the DMA

This week we had a special visitor who traversed through time and space in advance of our November 8 Second Thursdays with a Twist all about Doctor Who. For his tour through the Museum, he said he would like to see some people and places that he’s traveled through time to visit. We were happy to oblige, mostly because we didn’t want him to use his sonic screwdriver on us. As he was walking through the Museum, he also found a few artworks featuring people and places he had not encountered and he wanted to learn more about those too.

The Doctor hadn’t yet met George Washington, so he was eager to see his portrait:

No trip to the DMA is complete without a stop at Frederic Edwin Church’s The Icebergs:

A future iteration of the Doctor met Vincent van Gogh, so naturally we had to show him Sheaves of Wheat:

And here are a few of the other stops he made in our galleries:

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When you visit the DMA on November 8 for our next Second Thursdays with a Twist, you, too, can go back in time to see Winston Churchill, the Aztecs, and many other important historical characters through our scavenger hunt and warp drive tours that’ll have you exploring all that timey wimey stuff!

Katie Cooke is the Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.


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