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Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg spotlights the magical art of New Mexico
Georgia O’Keeffe (American, 1887-1986), Grey Hills Painted Red, New Mexico (1930). Oil on canvas. Anonymous Gift.
ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.- New Mexico has inspired some of the most inventive, diverse, and striking American art ever created. New Mexico and the Arts of Enchantment featuring The Raymond James Financial Collection ranges from pre-Hispanic pottery to twenty-first-century paintings and sculpture. The exhibition opens Saturday, January 18, and continues through Saturday, May 11, 2014.

“New Mexico, with its rich Native American traditions and desert landscape, has inspired some of the greatest art our country has produced,” said MFA Director Kent Lydecker. “We are combining stellar works from our collection with some of the best paintings, sculpture, and jewelry Tom and Mary James and Raymond James Financial have collected. We are deeply grateful for their willingness to share so many of their treasures with the public.”

At the center is the MFA’s impressive Georgia O'Keeffe landscape, Grey Hills Painted Red, New Mexico (1930), a gift in 2010 which received international attention. Escaping the intensity of New York City, O’Keeffe found her spiritual and artistic home in the New Mexico desert landscape, hills, and mountains. Her painting will be joined by another premier American painting in the Museum’s collection, John Sloan’s humorous Cliff Dwellers’ Country (1925). Sloan purchased a home in Santa Fe in 1920 and returned annually for 29 years.

The exhibition also features three of the Museum’s photographs of O’Keeffe’s famous home and the landscape around Abiquiu by Todd Webb, one of the last protégés of her husband Alfred Stieglitz. O’Keeffe and Webb were longtime friends, and the reclusive artist gave him unusual access to her home and studio.

Paintings and sculpture from The Raymond James Financial Collection bring a contemporary dimension to the exhibition. They encompass evocative landscapes and depictions of Native Americans and their cultures.

Large-scale works by Tony Abeyta and Dan Namingha combine the landscape with abstract elements, and Billy Schenck brings a Pop sensibility to his paintings. Mindy and Dr. Michael Solomon are lending twentieth-century landscapes by Harry Benjamin, Phil Epp, and Jim Vogel. The sculpture ranges from Abeyta’s and Tammy Garcia’s totems to Allan Houser’s dramatic Abstract Crown Dancer (1991) and Oreland Joe’s contemplative Navajo Dream (2007), made from Portuguese marble. Exquisite pieces of jewelry from Mary James’ private collection, primarily made by Native Americans, are by such noted figures as Jesse Monongya, Lee Yazzie, and Vernon Haskie.

Native American cultures have produced some of our country’s earliest and greatest art. The pre-Hispanic pottery on loan from The Drapkin Collection is stunning in its craftsmanship and detail. So, too, is the MFA’s Two Gray Hills Navajo Rug. The functional, the artistic, and the ceremonial were intertwined and frequently still are in these communities.

Grand traditions have been kept alive by contemporary artists, but with new approaches and in the case of Diego Romero’s bowl, Broke Car Landscape (about 1990), with engaging playfulness. This inventive piece will be contrasted with an ancient Mimbres vessel from The Drapkin Collection. Other exceptional ceramics come from the collections of Hazel and William Hough, Kathryn Boeckman Howd, Pat and Ron Mason, and Lynell and Robert Bell, who are also lending a painting from the 1930s. The Museum is fortunate to have a large black-on-black platter by María Martínez (intricately painted by her husband Julian). Like so many twentieth-century and contemporary ceramics, it is a showpiece.

The ancient and the contemporary, the mezcla or mix of cultures, and a wide range of media make New Mexico and the Arts of Enchantment unforgettable. The state and its artists, both native born and adopted, hold an esteemed place in the history of American art.

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