On Sunday, I was invited to attend a bloggers’ event at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, AR. I had been to the museum a couple of times before. Once on our anniversary trip to Eureka Springs (we stopped on our way home), and again when I was in Bentonville for a wedding for the Norman Rockwell exhibit. But this time, the focus was on the new State of the Art exhibit.
I had heard just a little about this exhibit from friends who had been. Many had taken their children who had LOVED it…so I knew going in that this exhibit was more than just traditional paintings.
We had the honor of being shown through the galleries by the curator himself, Chad Alligood. Chad started out explaining to us that often contemporary art is seen as something abstract and difficult. It is out of touch with most people’s realities. However, with this exhibit, they didn’t set out to feature an “ism” like modernism or signalism…but rather to find pieces that spoke to people. Pieces by living artists who could tell about their works. So they traveled over 100,000 miles all across the country visiting 1000 artists….and they somehow narrowed it down to something of 100 artists and around 200 pieces of art.
And y’all. This exhibit is FANTASTIC. You could spend all day just in these two exhibit halls….and there is still the rest of the museum to explore! Let me just encourage you in this – if you live in Arkansas and you’ve never been to Crystal Bridges….GET THERE ASAP. While any visit would be fabulous, this awesome exhibit is here until January 19. Bentonville is just a drive away, and there are great places to eat and play during your visit.
And if you don’t live in Arkansas….I would honestly say that Northwest Arkansas and Bentonville would make a wonderful vacation. There are tons of great local places to eat, there’s a HUGE craft beer scene, beautiful outdoor areas to explore, and great shopping. And you could visit me! 🙂
Our tour started with Chad leading us through this awesome installation piece of afghans and quilts by Brooklyn, NY artist Jeila Gueramian.
This is a sewing machine done in marble. Let me repeat that. What appears to be a working sewing machine was carved out of MARBLE. It’s by Bonner Elk, NC artist Peter Glenn Oakley. I was in awe.
The group Works Progress had an interactive area where you could taste area waters in a water flight. You could sample water from Bentonville, Siloam Springs, and Sulphur Springs. I preferred Sulphur Springs.
One of the most interesting pieces to me was this one, created out of $1 bills. It’s by Lancaster, PA artist Mark Wagner. It was just so neat to get close to it and explore it. Look at the detail in the close-up of Washington below! All from $1 bills!
My bloggy friends just absorbed every word that Chad had to say. It was so interesting to hear first-hand from the man who put this collection together.
One of the more breathtaking pieces was a GIANT quilt made by New Orleans artist Gina Phillips. It was HUGE. The Crystal Bridges State of the Art app (Because they have an app for that!) says it’s 13 feet by 27 feet! And it was SO detailed.
Many exhibits were interactive. You were (unlike normal museum settings) encouraged to touch, feel, and play with many pieces. This is us playing with “Sensitive Equipment” by Alberto Aguilar from Chicago. It was a game to keep balloons in the air using bells. Really fun.
These are hand-cut bone china by Lowell, MA artist Elizabeth Alexander. They are so fragile and beautiful.
This was one of the most moving pieces for me. It’s by Little Rock, AR artist Delita Martin. It’s called “The Dream Keeper” I was just in love with the colors, the imagery, and the emotions in this piece.
One of the neatest exhibits is one called “Slow Room” by Jonathan Schipper. It was set up like a living room from items found at local thift stores. But each item was tethered to a hole in the wall with a string. Slowly, the strings are being tightened by a mechanical wench…so the room is slowly destroying itself. While Sarah and I were there (but we didn’t see it!) something fell off the wall. You can search #slowroom on Instagram or Twitter to see it over time. (photo from Crystal Bridges)
I am trying to plan a visit back to visit again while State of the Art is still here. I want more time to explore these pieces (and the other 200 in the collection!). I just kept turning the corner and going “Oh my goodness!” “Awesome” “SO cool” “How interesting” There are pieces that are contemplative and thought-provoking…but most of all, I would say this collection is just full of energy and excitement. Don’t miss it.