May, 2012

  Report on The Trip to Bentonville & Crystal Bridges Museum in May 2012


Before you Drive, Bike, or Hike down into the Magic Kingdom that is Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum, you really ought to begin with a visit to the Town Square of Bentonville, Arkansas.

Founded in 1836, Bentonville takes its name from Thomas Hart Benton, an Ancestor of our beloved American Painter, Thomas Hart Benton.

As befits a Town that was part of the Old South--bravely fighting against Abraham Lincoln's Boys in Blue from Up North--a Granite Confederate Soldier stands guard in the Central Plaza!

But & More Importantly, at the upper end of the Plaza is the Original Five & Dime operated by Sam Walton, the Marketing Genius who gave Us & the Wider World: WALMART!

One of the Front Windows is filled with Stacked Cans of SPAM!

You can also see Sam's Pick Up & many, many Mementos of the Walton Family's March to Greatness & Fabulous Fortunes!

Fortunately, the Walton Heirs like to Share, so, although it was Alice Walton's Excellent Idea to create the Crystal Bridges Museum, it is the Walton Family Foundation that underwrites this Magnificent Obsession.

But, with the help of Goldman Sachs, Coca Cola, & others, the Museum is Free!

Except for Special Exhibitions

Ingeniously designed by Moshe Safdie--who came to International Attention at the Montreal '67 World's Fair, with Habitat, a stacked set of Apartment Cubicles--Alice Walton's Crystal Bridges Museum takes its name from the two Crystaline Springs that feed the Sparkling Stream that courses through the Valley where the Museum Pavilions are nested.

The Stream forms a Reflecting Pond in the heart of the Museum Complex, where one of Safdie's Cable Supported Museum Bridges spans a Spillway.

The Pond is flanked on three sides by Bridge like Galleries & a Restaurant, Eleven.

On the other side of Eleven is the inception of the Pond, with a Cable Supported Great Hall at the Lower End, which is also an Entrance from one of the Hiking & Biking Trails.

Safdie has cleverly invoked Sets of Arcs for Galleries, Offices, Shops, & other Functions on the Eastern Side of the Pond.

Yes, there is an excellent Research Library & Archives, a Suite for Art Education & Fun for Kids

All in all, Moshe Safdie's Symphony of Wood, Stone, Steel, & Glass in this marvelous Museum Complex is a Post Post Modernist Architectural Ecstasy!

A Trip to Bentonville may not be quite the same as that fabled Drama, The Trip to Bountiful, but it would make a Wonderful Family Holiday

Especially if you are Proud of Being an American & even more especially Proud of American History, Art, & Culture!

Arkansas may have Lost the Civil War--not all by itself, of course: Georgia helped--but WALMART has won the World!

So, Many, Many Thanks to Alice Walton & Father Sam for giving America such a Handsome Gift!



THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL: What Were They Teaching There & How Much Was Tuition?

No, no, no!

That's not at all what the Hudson River School was all about.

These were Artists who not only painted Vistas of the Hudson River & the Cities & Towns along its wide course down into New York Harbor, but also Heroic Historic Subjects.

This is a Temporary Exhibition, but nonetheless Overwhelming in its Scope, not to mention the Size of most of the Gilt Framed Canvases.

Photography was Strictly Forbidden, but Your Roving Arts Reporter was certain he'd already photographed--for TheArtsArchive--many of these magnificent pictures.

The Sense of Déjà Vu was enhanced when I stood before Thomas Cole's mind boggling five canvas series: The Course of Empire.

Ah! Of course! I'd originally seen these & the rest of the nostalgic Hudson River Visions on Central Park West, at the New York Historical Society!

The NYHS has recently had a remarkable & technologically ingenious Make Over, so such Mammoth Works could well be loaned out, rather than sleeping in Cellar Storage.

In fact, these Historic Treasures have been on tour while the NYHS was closed for Rebirth.

Both the NYHS & the Crystal Bridges Museum opened on 11 11 11

Titled THE HUDSON RIVER SCHOOL: Nature & the American Vision, this impressive exhibition includes Major Canvases by Albert Bierstadt--who seldom painted a Minor Canvas, Jasper Cropsey, John F. Kensett, & Asher B. Durand.

Bierstadt--as with others of the HRS--did not limit his Vision to Vistas of the Hudson. His large paintings of the American West are known Worldwide.

Even in the High Sierras--where the Native Sons of the Golden West had Huge Bierstadt hanging in their Grass Valley Lodge Hall--I grew up with Hudson River Painters.

Above my Bed was a color print of The Home of the Heron, by George Inness II.

My Father, Mert Loney, was Manager--for Jesse Juliet Inness Cox, daughter of Geo II--of the Barnegat Ranch Golden Guernsey Dairy.

CELEBRATING THE AMERICAN SPIRIT: From Colonial Times into the American Present!

Although the varied Paintings, Constructions, & Sculptures in Celebrating the American Spirit are from the Permanent Collection of the Crystal Bridges Museum, they are not the only Artworks in the Collection.

So this Colorful Journey through American Art History will, in time, be replaced by one with a slightly different Theme, though certainly still America Focused.

Many of the Works may look familiar to frequent Museum Visitors from Major American Cities but that may be only because the Artists represented have replicated some Popular Images a number of times or have achieved a Definitive Signature Style that can be recognized anywhere they show.

With Asher B. Durand's Kindred Spirits, however, New Yorkers may well have seen this Inspiring Vision before in Manhattan.

Depicting Thomas Cole & William Cullen Bryant silent & astonished in an American Wilderness Scene, it once was a Major Treasure of the New York Pubic Library at Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street.

There was a Loud Outcry of Protest when it was sold to Alice Walton for the Crystal Bridges Museum.

But the Trustees of the NYPL are determined to Digitize the Great Granite Lady who sits astride Bryant Park.

So who needs Great Art & Great Research Collections & Specialist Librarians when you can find out anything you need to know from a Computer Terminal that Internets with Wikipedia & Google?

[Actually, Crystal Bridges Museum has an excellent Research Library!]

Twelve Galleries in Four Separate Buildings house this exhibition, offering a Walking Tour through both American History & American Art History.

The Progressive Sections are: Colonial to Early 19th Century Art, which features Kindred Spirits & Charles Wilson Peale's George Washington.

This is followed by Late 19th Century Art, with such Famed Painters as William Merrit Chase & John Singer Sargent.

An intervening Two Level Gallery offers temporary exhibitions from the Permanent Collections. Edward Curtis' Photogravures of Native American Indians & The Arkansas Traveler are currently on view.

Then come Early Twentieth Century Art, with Norman Rockwell, Charles Sheeler, & George Bellows on display; followed by Twentieth Century Art, featuring such talents as Andy Warhol & Roy Lichtenstein &

Everyone in between…

Warhol's Dolly Parton Silk Screener may be an Across the Border Salute, from Arkansas to Missouri, where Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede is the Big Attraction in Branson, MO.

If you want to know exactly Who is represented & with What Artworks in Celebrating the American Spirit, Log On to crystal


AMERICAN ENCOUNTERS: Thomas Cole & the Narrative Landscape.

Thomas Cole was one of 19th Century America's most interesting Landscape Painters, but he wasn't focused on depicting Magnificent Vistas for their own Visually Overwhelming Power.

Instead, he was intent on interpreting a Narrative from a Textual Source such as The Last of the Mohicans & Psalm 23.

Included in the Museum's exploration of American Painting are Cole's The Tempest, The Cross in the Wilderness, & The Good Shepherd.

Atlanta's High Museum & Paris' Louvre have loaned canvases for this Show within a Show.

STRONG WOMEN: Celebrating Women Artists!

Had Sam Walton curated the Crystal Bridges Collections, he might well have put a Special Emphasis on Art & Artists dealing with American Industry, Manufacturing, & Marketing.

But Crystal Bridges Founder Alice Walton, understandably, is more interested in Strong American Women, not just Women Artists, but also American Women as Artists' Subjects.

Women "who arrest our attention, challenge stereotypes & societal limitations, & demand to be considered on their own terms."

There is no Special Gallery for these Ladies. Instead, you can discover them on a Self Guided Tour through the Permanent Collection.

Among the Strong Women are Louise Nevelson, Mary Cassat, Harriet Frismuth, Georgia O'Keeffe, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Butterfield, & Robyn Horn.

What? You've never heard of Joan Mitchell, Deborah Butterfield, & Robyn Horn before?

Well, maybe you should come down to Crystal Bridges & make their Acquaintance


AMERICAN SCULPTURE: Artfully Sited in the Magical Valley of the Crystal Springs…

There are six different Hiking Trails flanking the Crystal Bridges Museum.

Three of them are also Biking Trails

Part of the City of Bentonville Trail System, Crystal Bridges Trail stretches from Downtown through Compton Gardens into the Museum Valley, where the Art Trail branches off from it.

Sited on the Art Trail & around the Museum Exterior are Sculptures by Paul Manship, George Rickey, Mark di Suvero, Roxy Paine, Robert Indiana, James Turrell, & Robyn Horn, among others.

The most impressive of all these Artworks is Roxy Paine's Giant Silver Tree sited on a hill in front of the Museum Entrance. It is titled Yield

Works like Indiana's LOVE seem like Old Friends, as one sees copies strewn widely about the world. Not to overlook The Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan.!

The four other Nature Walkways are: Rock Ledge Trail, Dogwood Trail, Orchard Trail, & Tulip Tree Trail.

After your Art & Nature Hike, you might well want to have a Smoothie or a Salad in the stunningly designed Eleven Food Facility in its own Pavilion!


Caricature of Glenn Loney in header is by Sam Norkin.

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