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Another O’Keeffe finally comes to light at Dallas Museum of Art

November 15, 2018

This already sounds like a juicy movie.

Hard to believe that the story of painter Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe has been almost entirely lost, considering that her iconic sister is so ubiquitous there’s an entire museum devoted to her life and work.

But here you have it: The Dallas Museum of Art is presenting Ida’s first solo museum show Nov. 18-Feb. 24 in coup of corrective art history.

“Escaping Georgia’s Shadow” introduces more than 40 paintings, watercolors, prints and drawings by Ida, including six of seven “lighthouse” series paintings that have not been exhibited together since 1955.

Ida’s mastery of color and composition caught the eye of critics back in the day, but she and Georgia had a complicated relationship. Ida was two years younger but died 25 years earlier, decades after they became estranged.

Ida bested her sister in the education department, earning an MFA from Columbia in 1932; but her small triumphs caused competitive tension. While Georgia benefited from the early support of her famous husband, the dealer and photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Ida struggled. During the Great Depression, she taught across the Eastern Seaboard, the South and the Midwest to stay afloat.

“Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow” begins with paintings of the late 1920s and early 30s, when she used “dynamic symmetry,” a compositional concept based on mathematics, to produce abstracted images. Those principles took a more regionalist, subdued and lyrical look by the late 1930s, influenced by her travels. She produced “Star Gazing in Texas” in 1938, a year that found her teaching in San Antonio.

Also a printmaker, Ida used an electric iron as a press to make monotypes. Along with drawings and prints, the show includes photographs of her taken in the 1920s by Stieglitz, before the sisters split; plus an original short film focusing on Ida’s life.

“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,” said DMA curator Sue Canterbury, who led a team that devoted four years to researching Ida’s life and work.

For your travel calendar: On Feb. 2, the DMA will present a half day of talks by experts exploring the lives and careers of Ida and Georgia O’Keeffe. Other programs are scheduled throughout the run. After the Dallas showing, the Clark Art Institute in Willamstown, MA. will present “Escaping Georgia’s Shadow” July 6-Oct. 6, 2019.

molly.glentzer@chron.com

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