Chihuly in the Forest and American art at Crystal Bridges Museum


While in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, last weekend, my husband and I drove to nearby Bentonville to see the remarkable collection of American art at Crystal Bridges Museum. The museum is surrounded by pleasant walking trails, and an exhibit of Chihuly glass sculptures, Chihuly in the Forest, was ongoing (it ends November 27).

Naturally, I had to see it.


The museum sits down in a hollow, encircled by wooded hills. A steel and glass elevator takes you up to the start of the Chihuly trail.


The first sculpture, Boathouse 7 Neon, a composition of brightly colored and wavy glass tubes, put me in mind of someone who stuck their finger in an electrical outlet.


The colorful trees were electric too.


The mellow autumn sunlight illuminated the glass until they seemed to glow from within. Here’s Turquoise Reeds and Ozark Fiori.


This sculpture jumps over the path and continues along a creek bed.


Neodymium Reeds, luminescent and seeming to grow from mossy old logs


Glowing trees of gold…


…and crimson


The big daddy of any Chihuly exhibit is always a sun sculpture. Here’s Sole d’Oro, or Golden Sun.


The gold glass pieces pick up the color of the surrounding trees.


Next we saw Belugas, which look like balloons to me…


…although certain ones do have a dolphin-like quality.


They rose from a bed of ferns.


Red tree with a glimpse of Turquoise Reeds in the distance


The way Red Reeds was stacked reminds me of old split-rail fences from the Civil War era, with their diagonal bracing.


A walk in the woods


Boats are also a popular Chihuly element. Here’s Fiori Boat, which means Flower Boat. I also admired the ‘Blue Zinger’ sedge planted around it.


I’ve seen Chihuly exhibits before, at Dallas Arboretum and Desert Botanical Garden, but this was the first time along a forest trail. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the glass amid natural scenery, especially with the fall foliage of late October.


Before I show you the museum itself, let’s explore the inside of Fly’s Eye Dome by American designer and inventor R. Buckminster Fuller, one of many interesting sculptural and architectural pieces on the museum grounds.


The circles in the dome made spotlights on the ground.


Golden trees glowed against the blue sky, framed in those circles — cool!


The museum itself is spectacular. You drop down into it from the glass-walled parking-garage elevator with a view of a spooky and monumental black spider in the open courtyard below.


It’s titled Maman, or Mother. Hmm.


For the artist, Louise Bourgeois, envisioning her mother as a spider was not a negative statement.

“Art, like the beauty of our natural world, should be accessible to everyone.”


From that dramatic entrance, the design of the museum itself is wonderful. A series of organically shaped, “floating” pods set in a small lake and surrounded by the Ozark hills, the buildings look like glass-walled, covered bridges, from which I assume the name Crystal Bridges arose. If you’re interested in how the architect, Moshe Safdie, came up with the unique design of the buildings (they reference swinging — i.e., suspension — bridges common in Arkansas) and tucked them down in a ravine rather than putting them up top for a commanding view, watch a series of engaging videos of Safdie in conversation with founder Alice Walton.


Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton, who grew up here, loving art but with no access to museums, founded Crystal Bridges to bring great American art home to her people and her region. General admission to the museum is always free, thanks to a grant by Wal-Mart. I’m no Wal-Mart fan, but I think that’s wonderful — a tremendous gift to the people of Arkansas and especially tiny Bentonville, and to the country as well.


To me, the museum’s founding is a heartening story about investing in the place you love:

A long-time art lover and collector, Ms. Walton conceived the idea of creating a national art museum in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas, so that people of the region would have ready access to great works of art. She planned to build the museum on a 120-acre stretch of natural Ozark forest that had belonged to her family for many years. The land had special meaning to Alice and her brothers, who had played together in these woods as children; and it was important to the family that the land’s natural character be maintained. Alice presented her idea to the Walton Family Foundation, who agreed to fund the project.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is the first national museum dedicated to the work of American artists in more than a generation. By design, Crystal Bridges is a wholly remarkable museum: in its collection, which spans five centuries of American art; in its dramatic architecture; in its lush natural setting; and in its geographical location in the heart of the country, far from any coastal metropolis.

These elements alone make the Museum distinctive among its peers, but the spirit of Crystal Bridges runs deeper than these outward emblems. From its beginning, Crystal Bridges has been guided by certain key principles: the Museum offers the finest examples of American art available, and holds education at the very core of our mission, and strives to be a welcoming and inspirational place for everyone.

This last is one of the reasons it was essential that Crystal Bridges be located here, in Bentonville, Arkansas, surrounded by the beautiful Ozark landscape, where the citizens of our region — for whom most of the country’s finest museums are hundreds of miles away — can experience great works of art as part of their everyday lives, and where visitors from anywhere in the world can enjoy American art amid the beauty of the American landscape. At Crystal Bridges, we share a belief that art is at the center of what it means to be human. Art, like the beauty of our natural world, should be accessible to everyone.


I couldn’t agree more. Here’s the museum’s restaurant, Eleven (a reference to the museum’s founding date on 11/11/11), a lovely space.


And here’s a small sampling of the art, pieces that were particularly eye-catching to me among many much more famous pieces. This is a jazzy Stuart Davis painting from a special exhibit of his work.


Exquisite paintings from Martin Johnson Heade’s The Gems of Brazil series — Hooded Visorbearer


…and Blue Morpho Butterfly.


Luigi Lucioni’s richly colored and intense Portrait of Bob


And Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species series


We had a great visit to Crystal Bridges and could easily spend another day there to see everything. We’ll definitely be back one day.

For a look back at our visit to nearby Eureka Springs, Arkansas, including beautiful Thorncrown Chapel, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks! Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by inspiring designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

After the volcano blows: Crater Lake National Park


Mt. Mazama spilled its guts in a massive volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, emptying itself out to such an extent that the mountain collapsed in on itself, creating a 3,900-foot-deep caldera. As the centuries ticked by, the caldera partially filled with snowmelt and rainfall, transforming into a sapphire-blue lake — the deepest lake in the U.S., with a depth of 1,943 feet — ringed by a partially forested mountain ridge at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Meanwhile the volcano kept belching up lava, creating cinder cones on the lakebed. One, dubbed Wizard Island, rises like a conical wizard’s hat above the lake’s surface, making a mini-mountain island to one side of the 6-mile-diameter lake.

Such is the dramatic history of Crater Lake, a national park in south-central Oregon that I’ve long wanted to visit and saw during a family road trip last month.


Ombre shades of blue

Crater Lake is famous for its sapphire hue. It’s so blue, we learned, because the water is very deep and nearly pure. No streams or rivers flow into or out of the lake, and so it doesn’t contain river silt or mud. The park receives a tremendous amount of snowfall every year — 43 feet on average — which helps keep the lake at a constant level, compensating for evaporation.


The rim views are stunning, but it’s even more amazing when you think about the fact that you’re standing atop the rim of a volcano, looking into the cone. True, it’s dormant, but no one’s ruling out the possibility of a future eruption.


Wildfires were raging in the area when we visited and the park’s West Rim Drive was closed, so we weren’t able to drive the entire rim. I worried that smoke would haze the view of the lake, and it did get hazier throughout the day. But when we arrived that morning the skies were clear and the lake clearly visible.


The caldera’s steep, crumbly sides make it impossible to reach the lake except along a single trail, the Cleetwood Cove Trail, which usually opens in mid-to-late June. My husband and daughter were keen to hike it. Following tradition, they both plunged into the icy lake — surface temps are around 50° or 60° in summer — just to say they did.


Crater Lake is a snowy place for much of the year, and we saw for ourselves that snow can remain on the ground even into August.


Off East Rim Drive, we saw the Pinnacles: fossil fumaroles — aka ancient volcanic vents — that cemented through intense heat the ash they spewed. Surrounding material eroded over the centuries, exposing the fossilized vents as fantastical spires.


Of course, pun lovers that we are, we immediately dubbed this photo Penickles at the Pinnacles.

Up next: The inspiring, jewel-box garden of Buell Steelman and Rebecca Sams, owners of Mosaic Gardens in Eugene, Oregon. For a look back at our visit to Redwood National Park and Fern Canyon, click here.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get ready for fall garden tours in Texas! The Garden Conservancy is sponsoring Open Days tours in Fort Worth on Oct. 8th, San Antonio on Oct. 14th, and Austin on Nov. 4th.

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts, I’m hosting a series of garden talks by talented designers and authors out of my home. Talks are limited-attendance events and generally sell out within just a few days, so join the Garden Spark email list for early notifications. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Exploring Mueller’s Southwest Greenway, public art, and Texas Farmers’ Market


A week ago, my dad and I popped over to east Austin’s Mueller neighborhood for a springtime stroll around the Southwest Greenway. They have some pretty big spiders in those parts!


I love this sculpture, Arachnophilia by Houston artist Dixie Friend Gay, which stands 23 feet tall and straddles the walking trail. Her belly is full of green and blue glass gazing balls! Gigantic agaves add a living sculptural element alongside the trail.


Texas redbuds were in full bloom, and I had to stop and admire each one.


The trail skirts a small lake in the center of the park…


…where we spotted a great blue heron and a few white egrets fishing or frogging, plus lots of ducks.


The Southwest Greenway was planted with native grasses and other Texas prairie plants in partnership with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In late winter, tawny grasses predominate. But flowering trees are already coloring the prairie landscape, and soon wildflowers will steal the show. In the distance you can see two sculptures by Austin artist Chris Levack, Wigwam on the left and Pollen Grain on the right.


Here’s a closer view of Wigwam, with curving beds of prairie grasses and perennials at its feet.


With mass plantings of native trees and perennials, the Greenway shows how to use native plants in a contemporary way.


I like this tiny formal lawn too, which leads to a bench secluded by native shrubs, ornamental trees, and grasses.


Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata) shows off golden, sweet-scented flowers at this time of year.


The spiny, gray-green leaves are pretty too.


Ah, but the early spring glory of flowering redbuds and Mexican plums!


A closeup of Texas redbuds in bloom. Why, I wonder, aren’t they called pinkbuds?


Mueller is a planned community built on the site of Austin’s old Mueller Airport, and some of the original airport structures have been preserved, like this old hangar. Dad and I were happy to stumble on the Texas Farmers’ Market in full swing here, which operates every Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm.


Vendors were selling vegetables, honey, sauces, bread, and more.


And since it was just a few days before Mardi Gras, a band decked out in tie-dye, purple, and beads, the Mighty Pelicans, were playing zydeco and blues. It was a party!


As we headed back to our car, we couldn’t help noticing a bunch of kids on a playing field wearing clear plastic bubbles. They’d run at each other and rebound hilariously. One kid got stuck upside-down and had to be righted with help from his coach.


I later learned it’s called bubble soccer. Who knew?


Near the science-based playspace for kids called Thinkery , we encountered another delightful public sculpture, Lake Nessie.


The glass-tiled sea serpent was created by Arachnophilia artist Dixie Friend Gay.

I love all the public art at Mueller, and the generous park spaces. It’s a fun place for a Sunday stroll.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Get on the mailing list for Garden Spark Talks. Inspired by the idea of house concerts — performances in private homes, which support musicians and give a small audience an up-close and personal musical experience — I’m hosting a series of garden talks by design speakers out of my home. The upcoming talk with James deGrey David has sold out, but join the Garden Spark email list for speaker announcements delivered to your inbox; simply click this link and ask to be added. Subscribers get advance notification when tickets go on sale for these limited-attendance events.

All material © 2006-2017 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Follow