Artists who saw how their works were being displayed at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art alongside Georgia O’Keeffe's made clear they were thrilled to be in such respected company.
"The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art" was shared with the media on Thursday, two days prior to Saturday’s public opening of the major exhibition highlighting O’Keeffe and the work of 20 contemporary artists.
Artists at the museum on Thursday, including Baltimore’s Cynthia Daignault, New York’s Sharona Eliassaf and Oakland’s Anna Valdez, were thrilled to see their work directly across the gallery from painting by O'Keeffe, the mother of American Modernism.
“I’m a little bit shocked in a good way,” said Eliassaf as she stood near her own oil painting called Stars to Dust, Dust to Stars that stood out against the museum’s dark purple walls. “It’s gorgeous. I've never seen the painting on the wall with the different color and it works very well."
Created by Crystal Bridges, "The Beyond" brings together sculptures, murals, photographs, paintings and more by O’Keeffe and the other featured artists. The exhibition will be on view from Saturday through Sept. 3. Tickets are $10, but there’s no cost for Crystal Bridges members and guests ages 18 and younger.
Building on works from the museum’s collection and borrowing from public and private collections, the exhibition features 36 O’Keeffe works spanning her career. Works include Radiator Building—Night, New York (1927), Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1 (1932), Flying Backbone (1944), and a 1972 painting The Beyond, which inspired the exhibition’s title and was one of the last works completed unassisted by O’Keeffe as her eyesight began to fail.
“Crystal Bridges is excited to present this extraordinary blend of iconic, rare and contemporary works in one exhibition,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges executive director and chief diversity and inclusion officer.
O’Keeffe created some of the most enduring art of the 20th Century with images of enormous flowers, luscious colors, landscapes, feminine forms and still lifes.
Among the more unique displays from the contemporary artists are 360 small oil paintings by Cynthia Daignault. She calls it Light Atlas, and she started work on it as she traveled across the U.S. She started in New York and painted something she saw about every 25 miles during a 2014 road trip. Some Light Atlas pieces will be recognizable to many people such as the one showing the downtown Houston skyline, but most of the paintings look like they could be anywhere. There's one of a cow near the fence in a field and another is a green barn. They aren't intended to be postcards, but they do demonstrate the vastness of the American landscape.
Throughout the galleries, O’Keeffe’s pioneering work is interspersed among the contemporary works in six themed sections: Flowers, Finding the Figure, The Intangible Thing, Still Lifes, Cities & Deserts and The Beyond.
Lauren Haynes, the museum’s curator of contemporary art, and Chad Alligood, an independent curator who worked at Crystal Bridges for four years, led Thursday’s media tour. The served as co-curators on "The Beyond" project.
“O’Keeffe is a touchstone of Modern art,” Haynes said. “We hope visitors will walk away from 'The Beyond' with a broader understanding of her diverse body of work, and we encourage visitors to discover new artists who are working today, in their own unique artistic language, expanding upon O’Keeffe’s exploration of these particular themes.”
O’Keeffe is best known for her flower paintings, which she began painting in 1924. The flower section includes works by artists responding to subjects ranging from police violence to the contemporary economy.
“The pairing of an American icon with a group of 20 contemporary makers who have their own diverse set of practices and life experiences, opens up new conversations and possibilities, encouraging visitors to look closely,” Haynes said. “Eleven of the artists from 'The Beyond' will be leading talks and workshops at the museum, giving visitors a rare chance to hear directly from them for a deeper understanding of the ongoing relevance of O’Keeffe’s work and connections between our collective history and our present.”