Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow Solo Exhibition

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Ida O'Keeffe: Escaping Georgia's Shadow
Creation by Ida Ten Eyck O'Keeffe courtesy Gerald Peters Gallery

Dallas Museum of Art has the first ever solo museum exhibition of works by Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe (sister of legendary artist Georgia O’Keefe). Billed as the most comprehensive survey of the artist’s work to date, Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow, brings together more than 40 paintings, watercolors, prints, and drawings. This first time exhibition includes six of the artist’s seven lighthouse paintings. Their previously unknown locations were revealed during exhibition research, and have not been exhibited together since 1955.

The exhibition explores Ida’s mastery of color and composition, which caught the eye of critics, as well as her complex relationship with her well-known sister Georgia O’Keeffe and the effect it had on Ida’s life and professional aspirations.

The DMA-organized exhibition opens November 18, with support from The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation. The exhibition includes 1920s photographs of Ida O’Keeffe by Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia’s husband. There is also an original short film focusing on Ida’s life. It is the first venue on a national tour, and will be on view in Dallas through February 24, 2019.

DMA Eugene McDermott Director Agustin Arteaga

“The DMA has a strong history of collecting, presenting, and contributing to scholarship on American art, and this exhibition offers visitors the opportunity to discover a new facet of this history through Ida O’Keeffe’s fascinating works of art,” said the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director Agustín Arteaga. “We are especially pleased to share with our audiences many works that have never been seen, most of which our incredible curatorial team uncovered through years of rigorous research and a commitment to providing new insight on this under-recognized artist.”

Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe (1889–1961) was a professionally trained artist who graduated with an MFA from Columbia in 1932. Her small triumphs as an artist became a source of competitive tension between Ida and her acclaimed sibling Georgia. Unlike Georgia, who had early support and promotional expertise from husband Alfred Stieglitz, Ida struggled to gain recognition. Teaching on short-term contracts at various colleges during the Great Depression of the 1930s took precedence over her art.

The exhibition begins with O’Keeffe’s paintings of the late 1920s and early 30s, which appeared in her first gallery shows in Wisconsin and New York. Her MFA studies brought a new sophistication to her work, showcased through six of the seven documented lighthouse paintings she created and exhibited in 1933. To produce these abstracted representations, O’Keeffe relied on “dynamic symmetry,” a compositional concept that linked art and mathematics.

Variation on a Lighthouse from private collection

By the late 1930s, O’Keeffe’s work took another great shift toward a regionalist look that, although more subdued and lyrical, is also undergirded by the same structural principles from earlier in the decade. Throughout, Ida was also a printmaker who used an electric iron as her printing press to make her monotypes.

The exhibition features the painting Star Gazing in Texas (1938), a work that was acquired by the DMA in late 2017. In this work, created during her year of teaching in San Antonio, Texas, Ida wittily achieved a magical melding of subject and frame in which a young woman bathed in moonlight contemplates the stars in the heavens that appear, not in the painting, but on the upper molding of the frame. This work highlights how Ida’s peripatetic existence provided her with exposure to new environments and subject matter, serving as inspiration for many works.

Ida O’Keefe portrait by Alfred Stieglitz from collection of Michael Stipe

Offering additional context for O’Keeffe’s practice, the exhibition will feature ten photographs of her by Alfred Stieglitz.

DMA Organizing Curator Sue Canterbury

“When one sees the caliber of many of Ida O’Keeffe’s works, it seems incredible that she has remained relatively unknown—especially given the fame of her sister, Georgia,” said Sue Canterbury, organizing curator of the exhibition and The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA. “Ida is fascinating not only because of the dynamics within her famous artistic family but also for the distinct and experimental approach of her work, which reflects a range of contemporary influences, such as American Modernism, Regionalism, and abstraction.”

The Museum will celebrate Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow during Late Night on Friday, November 16, from 6 p.m. until midnight. There will be an evening of programs inspired by the exhibition, including a talk by DMA curator Sue Canterbury on the exhibition.

On February 2, the DMA will present a half day of talks by experts exploring the lives and careers of Ida and Georgia O’Keeffe and opportunities open to women during their time and why so many artists are overlooked. Additional programs, including gallery talks, lectures, films, and programming for families, teens, and teachers will be scheduled throughout the run of the exhibition. For dates, prices, and details, visit DMA.org.

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