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

Foliage architecture (and art) on Rice University campus


At my alma mater in Houston last month (right after Hurricane Harvey), I appreciated the marriage of foliage and architecture at the Brochstein Pavilion, a remarkable structure and hub of student activity that didn’t exist when I was a student at Rice University.

A hedge of tightly clipped horsetail divides the pavilion’s patio from the main sidewalk, all of which is shaded by a wide trellis of aluminum tubes. The trellis roof seems to float ethereally over the space and provides a good deal of shade, which, if you’ve ever been to Houston, you know is essential. It also evokes the floating roof of the campus’s James Turrell Skyspace.


I’m always surprised by how much I love a bosque. I find them inviting and visually soothing. The one at Brochstein Pavilion runs alongside the building, just across the main sidewalk. According to an article in ArchDaily:

“Responding [to] the grid of the building, a bosque of 48 specimen Allee Lacebark Elms rise from a plane of decomposed granite and provide an organizational framework that humanizes the scale of the space. A generous concrete walk connecting the library and the pavilion bisects the grove into garden rooms whose perimeters are defined by plantings of African Iris. Long black concrete fountains filled with beach stone occupy the center of each space, filling the garden with the murmur of running water and reflecting the filtered light through the canopy.”


The contemporary trough fountains were leaf-strewn a week after Harvey, but otherwise the landscape appeared to have held up well.


On the other side of the pavilion, a broad allee of Southern live oaks — one of many such live oak allees on the Rice campus — shelters additional seating and leads the eye to a sculpture by Jaume Plensa called Mirror.


While I was on campus, I visited Fondren Library, where I knew there was a display of Mike Stilkey’s book sculptures. (Here’s an article about his exhibit at Rice Gallery.) I first discovered Stilkey’s work at the L.A. home of Joy and Roland Feuer (scroll down for their Stilkey installation). His work is striking, often humorous, and instantly recognizable. Speaking of trees, Stilkey used a book about Texas trees for the “capstone” of this monumental book sculpture…


…seen in full here, seemingly balanced atop a small stack of books painted with wavy apartment towers and whimsical animals.


I found other pieces throughout the library, like this doleful water bird in a top hat…


…and a giraffe peeking from a stairwell over a railing…


…and a slinking cat.


I’ll leave you with one last book sculpture that brings us back around to the theme of trees as architecture. And thanks for bearing with me as I veered off-topic a bit with my Foliage Follow-Up post!

This is my October post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is happening in your garden or one you’ve visited this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

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.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Don’t miss the Austin Open Days garden tour sponsored by the Garden Conservancy on November 4.

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.

Umbrella sky at Aldrich Street in Austin


It looks like a convention of Mary Poppinses passed through a rainbow over on Mueller neighborhood’s newly opened Aldrich Street. Presumably inspired by the Umbrella Sky Project in Águeda, Portugal, this public art display of colorful umbrellas suspended over a wide sidewalk makes a festive paseo for passersby.


Isn’t it fun?


On a sunny day it offers a little shade.


I’d like to see it on a rainy day too.


At nearby Lake Park, Lake Nessy, a glass-tile sculpture by Houston artist Dixie Friend Gay, continues the colorful theme.


I love that glowing blue eye.


Public art makes the world more beautiful and magical, don’t you think?

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.

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