Amazing Art in Arkansas

Tropical Storm Harvey is still kicking in my area of Southeast Texas.  We have had four days of steady rain, over 20 inches, where I live, but otherwise everything is fine here.  Once the rain stops and the rivers and bayous go down, we will see the extent of the damage, and I’m sure we will all be busy helping those who were affected.

For now, since I can’t even get anywhere, I am going to share more of my trip to Arkansas.

After seeing the murals in Fort Smith, we headed north to the town of Bentonville.  A year or so ago, I had happened to see a TV show about the Crystal Bridges art museum founded by Alice Walton, the Walmart heiress, so when I found out that it was in Bentonville, I looked forward to visiting.

Even better, there was a big exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s works outside in the forest.  (The inside gallery portion of that show had closed just a day or two before, but that might have been a good thing, because according to the docents, the museum had been really crowded during that exhibit.)

Viewers were asked to vote on one of four Chihuly pieces that would become part of Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection.  Both my husband and I voted for this one, Fiori Boat, even though it was sadly down in the rankings at the time.  But just today I saw that it did win the vote!  Hurray!

Fiori Boat by Dale Chihuly.

Fiori Boat detail.

This is one of the other pieces in the running, Sole D’Oro.  It fits its location really well.  Bored during this storm, I had fun with some Photoshop filters.

Sole d’Oro by Dale Chihuly, on grounds of Crystal Bridges

It just cries out for Photoshop enhancements.

Boathouse 7 Neon by Dale Chihuly.

We toured most of the museum, including the brand new installation of Buckminster Fuller’s Fly’s Eye Dome.

Hmmm, definitely not an appropriate housing style for Houston.

I was surprised by the number of really famous paintings that are housed there; I know if I had been asked the location of portraits of George Washington, I would have guessed the Smithsonian, but there are two side-by-side at Crystal Bridges.  I loved seeing the famous Rosie the Riveter, and a quilt that Faith Ringgold made for Maya Angelou’s birthday present.

My favorite piece was called We the People by Nari Ward, and you can read more about the artist and his thoughts here.

We the People by Nari Ward.

Detail, showing shoelaces used in construction.

When I heard the prices paid for these works of art, though, ($35.5 million for just one!) I was thinking I would spend that money differently.  It’s great to have a museum in the middle of the country to give more people access to art, but if it was me, I would prefer to donate art supplies to schools all over America.  It’s nice to see well-known art, but my own opinion is that it’s more important to enable each person to access and practice their own creativity.

The museum does seem to have chosen works by a diversity of artists, and it does make its whole collection available online, so those are factors in its favor.  Between the murals in Fort Smith and the collection in Bentonville, my preference is for the murals, maybe because they were more novel to me.  But I am glad I got to visit Crystal Bridges this once.