Thursday, May 31, 2007

Donald Keyes (1940-2007)

Donald D. Keyes
(December 24, 1940 – May 19, 2007)
former curator of paintings, Georgia Museum of Art

Original Athens Banner-Herald article about Dr. Keyes's death [here].
Arizona Daily Star article [here].
Flagpole article [here].
Athens Banner-Herald brief article on the museum's memorial effort [here].
Link to Dr. Keyes's ABH obituary [here].

“We are all distraught around here at the museum. It’s a piece of our history that’s gone with Donald’s death. He was very important to the museum and to the Athens art scene.” – William U. Eiland, director, Georgia Museum of Art.

“He was a very creative curator. He came up with wonderful ideas and had connections with curators throughout the country to allow us to secure excellent shows. He was also great at keeping in touch with artists in Georgia.” – Bonnie Ramsey, director of communications, Georgia Museum of Art.

The Georgia Museum of Art and the arts community of Athens mourn the loss of Dr. Donald Keyes, curator of paintings at the museum from 1984 to 2001. Dr. Keyes died Saturday, May 19, after suffering a heart attack while hiking in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Born on Christmas Eve in 1940 in New York City, Keyes graduated from Yale University, and earned his doctorate in art history from New York University. Besides his time at the museum, he taught at Ohio State University and Smith College and was director of the Marietta Cobb Museum. Keyes was very active in the cultural life of the state as one of the founding members of Atlanta Photography Gallery and Five Art in Athens which houses Athens Institute for Contemporary Art (ATHICA) and artists’ studios. He also coordinated the artists’ market for AthFest, the annual music and art extravaganza, and was the auctioneer for the annual Mental Health Benefit Auction. As curator at the Georgia Museum of Art, Keyes organized numerous exhibitions and published articles, books, and exhibition catalogues. These included studies about American Impressionism, art and artists in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Stuart Davis, the nineteenth-century Southern itinerant painter George Cooke, the Woodstock painter AndrĂ©e Ruellan, Impressionism in California, and European and American photography.

One of Dr. Keyes’s many personal and professional interests was photography. He collected contemporary photography for more than three decades, and was responsible for numerous acquisitions and gifts to the museum’s collection of photographs. In memory of Dr. Keyes, the museum is presenting a temporary display of three photographs that entered the American collections here through his dedication, diligence, and knowledge. Also, through funds from M. Smith Griffith, the staff of the museum, and the museum’s American art department, the Georgia Museum of Art has purchased a photograph, Church, Havana, Alabama (1964) by renowned American photographer, William Christenberry (b. 1936), to be added to the collection in memory of Dr. Keyes.

In an essay he wrote for the exhibition To See a World in 1997, Donald Keyes described the power of photography: “Photography, more than any other medium, reminds the viewer of its subject while simultaneously removing him/her from that subject. …Most modern photography utilizes this tension between what is represented and what the viewer knows or believes to have been the original subject. Thus, most art photography exists as a nexus between reality and fantasy.”

Images: Tom Zetterstrom (American, born 1945), Coast Oak, n.d. From the Portrait of Trees series. Gelatin silver print. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; museum purchase through funds provided by the Friends of the Museum GMOA 1996.18

William Christenberry (American, born 1936), Church, Havana, Alabama, 1964. Vintage color Brownie print mounted to board. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; museum purchase, in memory of Donald D. Keyes, through funds provided by M. Smith Griffith, the staff of the Georgia Museum of Art, and the American art department at the Georgia Museum of Art, Accession pending 2007

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