Friday, June 07, 2013

The Many Faces of Georgia O'Keeffe

Anyone who knows me knows I have a thing about religious architecture, so it is no surprise that Church Steeple was one of the works that particularly rang my chimes (pardon the pun) as I mosied through the current exhibit at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe:  Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico: Architecture, Katsinam, and the Land (through September 11, 2013; then at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, AZ, September 27, 2013 – January 12, 2014).

O'Keeffe's flower images are probably her best-known paintings, but even for those who have a deeper familiarity with her body of work, this show holds some surprises. 

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) made Northern New Mexico her home for almost 40 years after the death in 1949 of Alfred Stieglitz ... her husband, renowned photographer, and America’s first advocate of modernism in art.  

“When I got to New Mexico [it] was mine", O'Keeffe one said. "As soon as I saw it that was my country. I’d never seen anything like it before, but it fitted to me exactly. It’s something that’s in the air ... The sky is different, the wind is different. I shouldn’t say too much about it because other people may be interested and I don’t want them interested.”

This exhibit illuminates the fact that Northern New Mexico inspired O'Keeffe to paint an extraordinary diversity of subjects including architecture, landscape, and religious arts of the region. Numerous works portraying the churches, crosses, folk art, and representations of Katsinam (carved and painted representations of Hopi and Pueblo spirit beings, often known as katchinas) are in the show, as well as her beloved desert, with its stunning geological formations, that spread out from her doorstep. One awesome landscape is called "My Backyard".

The show includes drawings and paintings of the architecture, landscape, and cultural objects that fascinated O’Keeffe and became part of her artistic practice as she explored a new environment and experimented with new colors, forms, and compositional strategies. And a really special part of the show is the room filled with photographs of Georgia O'Keeffe herself, protraits young and old, in her studio, in her kitchen, in her garden.


But wait ... she saw canyons even in Manhattan! 

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Vienna's Extraordinary Kunstkammer Reopens

Vienna: The extraordinary Kunstkammer at the Kunsthistorisches Museum has reopened after a decade-long renovation. The Kunstkammer features goldsmith work, bronze, ivory and wood sculptures, and exotic objects such as ostrich eggs, the horn of the legendary unicorn, plus the golden Saliera by Benvenuto Cellini. tells us that “The Kunst- und Wunderkammern (arts and natural wonders rooms) of the Renaissance and Baroque periods were encyclopaedic, universal collections that attempted to reflect the entire knowledge of the day. … princes and kings collected exotic and uncommon objects, to which they often ascribed magical powers, such as precious stones, ostrich eggs, coral and shark’s teeth, which were considered to be dragon’s tongues. From these natural products, artists created virtuoso works of art.”

Among the highlights in the Kunstkammer Wien are outstanding works of the goldsmith’s art, including the famous Saliera (salt cellar). This gem was crafted by Benvenuto Cellini in Paris in 1543  for Francis I of France, from models that had been prepared in Rome many years earlier for Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.

Incidentally, if you haven't read it already, I recommend the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571).

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Trend in Curating?

Do I detect a trend in the curating of special exhibits? No longer just "here are the paintings and sculptures" ... instead more exhibits are being curated to show the process by which the paintings and sculptures came to be.

In November I blogged about the Bernini exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum and noted that the array of sketches, clay models and large scale images of the finished sculptures provided "real insight into Bernini’s artistic process from start to finish."

Last week, in writing about the Federico Barocci exhibit at London's National Gallery, I noted that alongside fourteen of his altarpieces and devotional paintings, numerous portraits, and a secular narrative painting, more than 65 preparatory drawings, pastel studies and oil sketches will be on view ... demonstrating "how Barocci’s pictures evolved, showcasing the fertility of his imagination and the diversity of his working methods."

Now I've just learned about an exhibit of Paolo Veronese's work, at the John & Mable Ringling Museum in Sarasota (through April 14th). Virginia Brilliant, Associate Curator for European Art at the Ringling says that she has assembled sketches, completed drawings and the finished paintings to demonstrate "the whole story of how these masterpieces went from the artist's very first doodles -- his first ideas for a composition -- and how he worked those up in to very highly finished drawings" and finally into the sumptuous narrative paintings that he is known for.

Museums are trying to appeal to a broader audience, to attract people who say they don't go to museums because they "don't know anything about art". This type of instructive curatorial approach soothes the insecurities of art-novices.  And, frankly, it can enhance the experience even for those of us who do know something about art!