Archive for the 'works of art' 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.

2-D to 3-D Wire Creations

This February’s Open Studio will feature funky wire creations! Making sculptures inspired by paintings is a great way to engage with abstract art, and it allows your or your child’s mind to see the differences between a two-dimensional versus a three-dimensional artwork.

Imagine your favorite abstract painting—now imagine it as if it were designed as a sculpture. Would it twist or move? Would it cast shadows not conveyed in the painting? Sculpture is amazing because you can see it in a full 360 degrees and see up close what a painting simply cannot do. I love this activity because it asks the question “what would this painting look like if it were three dimensional?”

The 2-D to 3-D Wire Creations activity is a no-mess art-making project that is suitable for all ages and imaginations. It allows your child to engage with the basic elements of art—color, line, and shape—while introducing more complex subjects like abstract art, space, and movement.

As you twist and manipulate the wire, ask your child questions such as:

  • What kinds of lines can you make with the wire?
  • What colors are similar in the painting and your art?
  • What’s your favorite shape in the painting?
  • Do you like the art better as a painting or a sculpture?

I used Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Grey Blue & Black—Pink Circle to draw inspiration for my wire sculpture.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Grey Blue & Black—Pink Circle, 1929, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation, 1994.54, © The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The painting has colors and lines that make my sculpture interesting and recognizable.

This will be a fun project for you and your family. The best part is that you will be able to find the painting that inspired your work of art in the DMA’s collection!

Open Studio is for families and individuals looking for something free to do on the weekend. I am so excited to share with you the monthly art activity, how to engage your child in art projects, and a sneak peek of what you might expect. So stay tuned and see you soon!

February Open Studio Dates and Times:

Theme: Wire Creations
Location: Center for Creative Connections Art Studio
Price: Free
Dates:  
Saturday, February 2
Sunday, February 3
Saturday, February 16
Sunday, February 17
Time: Noon–4:00 p.m.

Melissa Brito is a Teaching Specialist for Family and Access Programs 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.

DMA Online Collection: An Inside Look (Part II)

Last week two of our Digital Collections Content Coordinators (D3Cs) reflected on the highlights and insights they’ve gathered throughout their time diligently compiling information for over 5,000 objects in our online collection. Today, the other half of this team recounts the dots they’ve connected and some of their favorite hidden gems they’ve uncovered on the job.

Chloë Courtney, Contemporary Art, Latin American Art, and Arts of Africa, 2018-present
chloe

Connecting the Dots:
My favorite aspect of the online collection is the way it highlights dynamic connections between objects from different areas of the Museum’s holdings. For example, Renée Stout’s sculpture Fetish #1 draws upon her study of African sculpture. Links to contextual essays and related objects in both the contemporary and African collections explain how the protective powers of minkisi influenced Stout’s choice of materials.

1989.128Renee Stout, Fetish #1, 1987, monkey hair, nails, beads, cowrie shells, and coins, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Roslyn and Brooks Fitch, Gary Houston, Pamela Ice, Sharon and Lazette Jackson, Maureen McKenna, Aaronetta and Joseph Pierce, Matilda and Hugh Robinson, and Rosalyn Story in honor of Virginia Wardlaw, 1989.128, © Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

The Spanish Colonial screen also relies on contextual information from multiple curatorial departments. This highly ornamented screen allows us to see how Japanese byobu, or painted screens, inspired Spanish Colonial adaptations and thus visually represent the centuries of trade between Asia, the Spanish Philippines, Mexico, South America, and Europe.

1993.74.A-BScreen, Mexico, Mexico City, c. 1740–60, oil on canvas, pine, and gilding, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Stanley and Linda Marcus Foundation, 1993.74.a-b

Hidden Gems:
While the number of objects displayed in the galleries is limited by factors including available space, the online collection enables visitors to experience art rarely on view in the building. One of my favorite contextual essays focuses on time-based media. Not only does the essay provide a survey of this field and the DMA’s impressive holdings, but it also draws attention to works that typically reside in storage.

Jennie Russell, American Art, European Art, and Teaching Ideas, 2016-2018

jennie
Hidden Gems:
Due to conservation restrictions, works on paper are generally permitted to be on view for only four to six months and then require long resting periods in storage. These works, though they get little exposure in the galleries, can be studied in the online collection through contextual essays and high-resolution photography.

Connecting the Dots:
My favorite part of the job is exploring the connections between visual art and the arts as a whole (music, theater, literature, etc.). Working on the mid-20th-century print Wreck of the Old 97 by John McCrady let me explore pop culture connections to art. Several artists, including Johnny Cash, had previously recorded the story of the wreck as a ballad. I came across interesting bits of trivia including the origin story of a local band’s name.

wreck of the old 97John McCrady, Wreck of the Old 97, date unknown, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1948.6

A fan of both literature and Surrealism, I knew I would enjoy working on Salvador Dalí’s 1969 Alice in Wonderland illustrations (examples include A Mad Tea Party, The Queen’s Croquet Ground, and A Caucus Race and a Long Tale). Dalí’s lithographs capture the spirit of Lewis Carroll’s tale with the painter’s usual wit and whimsy. Taking advantage of web resources let me provide visitors with links to other depictions of Carroll’s story as well as clips from cinematic adaptations.

Find your own favorites by browsing through our online collection, the content of which wouldn’t be possible without the research and hard work of our D3C team!

DMA Online Collection: An Inside Look (Part I)

As the Dallas Museum of Art’s Digital Collections project comes to a close at the end of December, we’re taking a look back at the important work the Digital Collections Content Coordinators (D3Cs) have undertaken over the past three years, including writing, researching, gathering, compiling, and condensing information for over 5,000 individual objects. Their end result is an online collection that takes advantage of its digital format. Unlike the physical limitations of the DMA galleries, the online collection promotes three unique learning opportunities:

  1. Connecting the dots—linking objects and narratives across collections or disciplines.
  2. Deep dives—providing detailed information about one or more objects in texts that far exceed typical wall labels.
  3. Hidden gems—highlighting works that are rarely on view or risk being overlooked in the galleries.

We’ve asked each D3C to recount some of the insights she accumulated on the job.

Jennifer Bartsch-Allen, Decorative Arts and Design, 2016-2018

jennifer allen
Hidden gem:
Although I’ve researched a variety of works across the Decorative Arts and Design Collection, the bulk of my last two years was focused on the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection. This enabled me to draw attention to furniture, including a Baroque cabinet by Pierre Gole. In the gallery, the cabinet remains closed and distant. Online, however, the high-res photos show the drawers in multiple positions and give close-ups of signatures and surfaces. Supplemental essays include biographies of the collectors and definitions of some of the specialized terms.

baroque cabinetCabinet on stand, Pierre Gole, Paris (?), France, 1660–80, wood, ivory, tortoiseshell, shell, and gilt bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.573.a-c

Deep dives:
One of my favorite eras is 20th-century design, so I thoroughly enjoyed exploring works featured in the Museum’s South Gallery. At first glance, Peter Muller-Munk’s relatively modest Normandie shape pitcher appears straightforward and functional. However, it becomes much more impressive and influential after reading about its context in American streamlined design.

pitcherNormandie shape pitcher, Peter Muller-Munk, Rome, New York, 1935, chrome-plated brass, Dallas Museum of Art, 20th Century Design Fund, 1996.27

Similarly, the historical references in René Jules Lalique’s glass vases become easier to identify once you recognize the popularity of neoclassical imagery at the time. Several, including the Denaides vase, rely on these mythological motifs while simultaneously embodying the early 20th century’s Art Deco movement.

vaseDanaides vase, René Jules Lalique, Lalique et Cie, Cristallerie, Wingen-sur-Moder, France, c. 1926, molded glass, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Steinberg, 2004.48.5

Heather Bowling, Classical Art, Contemporary Art, and Decorative Arts and Design, 2016-2018

heather

Deep dives:
Throughout the course of this project, I have enjoyed learning more about contemporary art and decorative arts and design, but it was fun to return to my classical roots and do some original research on a 2nd century CE portrait bust. The DMA’s Roman portrait head of a young woman joins an array of Roman portraits that reflect ideas about gender roles in the ancient world. Spoiler alert: portraits of modest, fertile, upper-class women were created largely to boost the public stature of the men in their lives. Additionally, elaborate hairstyles of wealthy Roman women imitated favored empresses and indicated the wearer’s high status, not unlike today’s celebrities.

roman headPortrait head of a young woman, Roman, 2nd century CE, marble,
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, 2016.36

Accessioned just three years after its creation, Cathedral is the cornerstone of contemporary art at the DMA and one of the first Pollock drip paintings to enter any museum collection in the world. Because this work is so prolific, I had to wade through a substantial amount of scholarship to create a concise description that answers the question you may be asking yourself: why is throwing paint on a canvas a big deal?

paint canvasJackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas,
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis, 1950.87, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Hidden gems:
In the galleries it would be easy to pass by this minuscule scarab beetle, but online you can zoom in and inspect each side. Although initially there was no information available about the inscription on its underside, extensive research of Egyptian amulets revealed exactly how it afforded the deceased special protection in the journey to the afterlife.

scarabScarab, Egyptian, 1785–1550 BCE, faience, Dallas Museum of Art, given in memory of Jerry L. Abramson by his estate, 2009.25.4

Connecting the dots:
Alongside my work in the Contemporary and Classical Art departments, researching modern design and postmodern design illuminated the intersection of ancient and contemporary objects, and gave me a new appreciation for how an encyclopedic museum collection can demonstrate the connections between different places and times.

Stay tuned for Part II, coming next week. Meet the other half of our D3C team and discover more insights into our collection!


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