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Ida Kohlmeyer at work.
From 'Sad Portraits'
To Colorful Abstracts
FRANK PROVENZANO SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
hen many painters
reach the twilight of
their artistic careers,
questions about life be-
come more stark and existential.
Of course, that's assuming that
they believe in a thing called time
Ida Kohlmeyer never thinks
about such things.
Ms. Kohlmeyer's abstract
paintings, now on exhibit at
Robert Kidd Gallery in Birming-
ham, sort of drift to the canvas
just long enough to touch the
viewer in the heart. Her playful
shapes and vibrant colors are
arranged in an aesthetic swirl of
joy and celebration.
This is an artist who knows
how to laugh and have fun. Think
of it as "serious fun." For Ms.
Kohlmeyer's work is not fleeting
colors and shapes of a passing
"I suppose that people will be-
lieve that these paintings can be
done in short period of time," she
said. "But when I paint, I need to
stop, look at it a week later, a
month later — years later."
It seems as if these tranquil
and compelling shapes carry the
same upbeat spirit that has guid-
ed Ms. Kohlmeyer through 82
years of life.
Profoundly influenced by the
Mardi Gras festiveness and danc-
ing jazz of her hometown of New
Orleans, Ms. Kohlmeyer works
seven days a week„ six hours a
day in her studio — sometimes
literally dancing between strokes
from her brush — to create paint-
ings that tenderly combine a re-
spect for ambiguity and an
affectionate appreciation of di-
Her shapes resemble a
squashed box, an incomplete cir-
cle, an unbalanced rectangle. Or
maybe the spaces represent re-
siliency, hope and humanness.
It all depends.
That's just how Ms. Kohlmey-
er wants it.
"When I start
painting, I don't want
any preconceived no-
tions to take over,"
She said. "It's much
more of a feeling of
freedom, joy, love of
life which promotes
the color and the
By most artists'
Kohlmeyer got a late
start. She was in her
late 30s, a mother of
two grown children
when she decided to
venture north to Prov-
idence, R.I., to study
with one of the great
painters, Hans Hoff-
mann. At the time,
1950, Ms. Kohlmeyer
was painting "sad
portraits" of children. Ida Kohlmeyer
But Mr. Hoffmann's influence
was enough to stop her in her
tracks. Immediately, she said, she
could only think of painting in the
abstract expressionist style.
"I always loved art and I want-
ed to do something with my life,"
she said. "Hans made me under-
stand and feel what it meant to
be an abstract expressionist."
During the last five decades,
Ms. Kohlmeyer's work has
evolved along the lines of truly
original artists, according to Ray