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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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.

Festive color and a little Dia de los Muertos in Lucinda Hutson’s garden


A visit to Lucinda Hutson‘s home and garden always feels like being at a party. Brightly colored walls and accessories, garden rooms with playful themes (like the mermaid garden pictured here), and Lucinda’s own excitement at showing you what’s flowering or fruiting create a feeling of festivity.


An under-the-sea theme suits Lucinda’s mermaid garden

Lucinda kindly opened her garden gate to me and Seattle author/designer Karen Chapman, who was in town for my latest Garden Spark event and to get photos for her upcoming book about deer-resistant gardens. Lucinda doesn’t contend with deer herself, but she was in the midst of decorating for Dia de los Muertos, and I was eager to see her garden again and share it with Karen.


In the mermaid garden, Lucinda’s mermaid grotto consists of a tiny pond backed by a rugged limestone wall, adorned by a large mermaid bowl and statue. Water-loving plants green up the scene.


Seashells accent the bowl, which, even with a deep crack, makes a charming focal point.


A seashell wreath sets the tone on the garden gate. It’s hard to see, but the wreath is hung around a mermaid on the gate.


A fishy stepping stone continues the theme.


In the next garden room, La Tina — Our Lady of the Bathtub — is mosaicked into an actual bathtub set upright in another limestone wall.


A colorful metal agave occupies a cedar bench, with chartreuse sweet potato vine contrasting with a blue-painted fence.


A mosaic of colorful tiles — including ears of corn! — decorates the exterior of Lucinda’s kitchen window, while painted wooden chickens on the windowsill give us the side-eye. Pink-flowering queen’s wreath vine clambers up the purple wall.


Colorful pots and plates in the vegetable garden


A saffron-colored wall holds a collection of painted children’s chairs from Mexico.


Behind the house is Lucinda’s party deck, with an umbrella-shaded table…


…an oilcloth-covered buffet table with succulents in colorful pots…


…and rustic cedar chairs and wall display shelves.


At the very back of the garden, behind the garage, is Lucinda’s tequila cantina — a rustic “cantina” for tequila tastings under a cedar pergola topped with a flame-like metal agave.


A metal mariachi saws away at his fiddle, with a tequila bottle tree making a fun accent behind him.


A tiled stairway leads through an enclosed porch and into the house.


Lucinda had already hung up her Day of the Dead lady monarch, her purple wings glowing in the sunlight.


From the front, a gentle (not scary) skeleton face welcomes you to the party that is Lucinda’s autumn garden.


Me, Karen, and Lucinda

Thank you, Lucinda, for the lovely tour around your garden, and may your Dia de los Muertos be filled with sweet remembrances of dearly departed loved ones.

To see Lucinda’s garden in full Dia de los Muertos glory, click here for a peek at last year’s adornments.

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.

Linda Peterson’s green-walled xeriscape garden: San Antonio Open Days Tour


The highlight of the recent San Antonio Open Days garden tour, as I knew it would be, was Linda Peterson’s beautiful xeriscape and green-walled courtyard garden. Twice before I’ve had the pleasure of exploring Linda’s garden (in September 2015 and April 2016), and the artistry of her plant combinations, skillful pruning, and integration of garden art always delights.


Since I’ve written about Linda’s garden twice before (see links in top paragraph), I won’t do a play-by-play of her garden features. Let’s just stroll, shall we? First, the front garden outside the gray-green courtyard walls…


Agave weberi with purple-flowering cenizo. Lucky Linda for having her barometer plant — i.e., cenizo — burst into bloom for the tour! The timing of an ephemeral cenizo bloom cannot be planned since it responds to rainfall and/or air pressure changes.


A pair of octopus-armed steel agaves accent a corner planting of cenizo (pruned up like small trees), sprawling dalea, and ‘Blonde Ambition’ grama grass.


Linda has a knack for artfully pruning plants. She’ll prune up foliage to show off trunks or lift a plant’s “skirts” above the gravel mulch. Even shrubby rosemary gets neatened up with selective under-pruning.


A sinuous live oak’s snaky limb reaches out from a hole in the wall to embrace a stump seat and a wood-plank table.


It’s wonderful, and a one-of-a-kind feature that epitomizes Linda’s embrace of the Texas climate and its natural beauty.


A side view from the front walk, where a stepping-stone path leads around the tentacled live oak


Society garlic blooming alongside another steel agave


My friend Cat and I both exclaimed over this cute-as-a-button flowering plant, which looks like a compact gomphrena. I can’t remember the ID from Linda, but I distinctly remember her telling me she found it at Lowe’s. Go figure! Update: It’s Gomphrena ‘Pinball Snow-Tip Lavender’ — what a mouthful.


“Beware: Sharp spiny plants with evil intent” — that dry humor is a dead giveaway that Linda made up this sign herself. And of course we gardeners know the real purpose of such a sign is to protect our precious plants, not the people who read it. Mind your feet, people!


Doesn’t look particularly evil, does it?


Heading around to the side yard


I always get a kick out of this grinning crocodile planter.


A Gulf fritillary butterfly enjoying purple lantana


Wavy-leaved prickly pear


Another big Weber agave


Tree limbs embrace overhead, as soap aloes hoist orange-flowered bloom spikes.


On the other side of the front yard, a side path widens into a small patio with a rustic bench. A green cloud of bamboo muhly grass hides the neighboring driveway from view.


“I’m nuts about you,” this stone squirrel could be saying to the Agave mediopicta ‘Alba’. (Groan)


Palms in culvert-pipe planters and a Weber agave


Looking back from the end of the path you get a marvelous view of the writhing arms of the Weber agave underplanted with writhing foxtail fern, backed by writhing live oaks. That’s a lot of writhing!


Step into the walled courtyard and you’re in Linda’s private outdoor living room. A pair of metal rhinos contemplates crossing the patio for a drink at the Mexican beach pebble “stream.” A winding river of soap aloes echoes the curving stone stream, and a variegated agave seems to wave encouragingly.


Metal armadillos root around in the garden bed.


The patio by the outdoor fireplace looks bigger and more inviting than ever. Linda has lightened up this year with fewer chairs and a see-through table.


An outdoor rug adds a bit of coziness and definition too.


A built-in bench along the wall holds an assortment of pumpkins, squash, succulents, and a candle lantern.


Even the metal barrel cactus were lit during the tour!


Such a relaxing space


Don’t you want to lounge here and take a nap under the live oaks?


A metal iguana guards a stand of ‘Vertigo’ pennisetum and a container fountain.


A couple of chairs plumped with pretty teal pillows with small mirrors sewn on for sparkle


I love Linda’s flowers made of bent copper tubing.


They show up so well against the minty green wall.


Heading around to the back garden, you stroll past a collection of potted plants and an elevated deck with cattle-panel privacy screening.


Cattle panel deck skirting is cloaked with fig ivy. No, it doesn’t stay this way on its own. Linda trims it to show off the grid pattern of the wire panel.


Understated pots in shades of brown are guarded by a metal horny toad — Texas’s state reptile, ya know.


A faux-bois fountain is a focal point at the end of the driveway.


An umbrella-shaded patio beckons where the path curves around the house.


A hanging wicker egg chair and bench offer additional seating.


Two metal giraffes nibble bamboo leaves nearby.


There’s not a patch of lawn in this low-water garden, but even so it feels lush and green.


Where there used to be a bottle shrub, Linda now has a hanging bottle tree, a less-common variation on the trunk- or pole-style bottle tree of the South. Linda uses lots of hanging objects — plants, lanterns, bottles — to draw the eye upward into the trees.


On a terrace off the back of the house, privacy is assured with a striking, contemporary privacy screen, which Linda designed out of leftover scraps of roofing metal (after their standing seam roof was installed) and she and her family riveted together. A bubbling fountain container topped with blue slag glass and a collection of containers completes the appealing scene.


Container detail


My thanks to Linda for sharing her remarkable garden again and letting us linger there so long!

And thank you, dear reader, for following along on my recap of the San Antonio Open Days Tour. I unfortunately ran out of time to see a couple of the tour gardens, but I enjoyed the ones we saw. For a look back at the old San Antonio style of the Tupper Beinhorn Garden, 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

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.

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