Tucked into a lush woodland setting in Bentonville, Arkansas, is Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Founded by Alice Walton, an heir to the Walmart fortune, it is the first national museum dedicated to the work of American artists in more than a generation. Crystals in Art, Ancient to Today opened October 11, and my friend and artist Miya Ando had a piece in the show. She was giving a talk along with artist Marilyn Minter, so I took the opportunity to get away to visit with her and see the show. The exhibit explored the complex and varied connections between crystal and art throughout the world, and included both ancient artifacts and works from contemporary artists.

Miya Ando’s Tides (2011), is a grid of eighteen individual 12 x 12-inch works on anodized aluminum. She grows microscopic clear sapphire crystals on the surface, strengthening the material to the hardness of sapphire crystal, then paints the metal in a watercolor style. Light reflection offers a different experience of the piece from every angle. I was particularly delighted by the crystallized books by artist Alexis Arnold (shown below), and look forward to seeing more of her work in the future.

The museum’s bridge-like structures, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, span natural ponds fed by Crystal Spring. More than 4 miles of trails wind through the museum’s 120-acre site in the Ozark landscape, and is a must-see part of the the museum experience. On a walk through the woods we were surprised to find Frank Lloyd Wright’s Bachman-Wilson House. The house was originally located in New Jersey, later acquired by the museum and reconstructed on the museum campus in 2015. There was a private event in progress, so unfortunately we were not able to take the tour.

I had no idea that Arkansas is one of the major producers of natural quartz crystal worldwide. The Holy Grail (1931), a magnificent quartz cluster featured in the show, is the largest ever found in Arkansas, weighing in at 1,500 pounds.

The weekend ended with dinner on the quaint Bentonville Town Square complete with Kentucky Daisies, a refreshing local bourbon cocktail.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
Left: Miya Ando, Tides, 2011. Right: Ai Weiwei, Chandelier, 2015
Alexis Arnold, Smithsonian Nature Guide: Rocks and Minerals, 2019
Alexis Arnold, Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals, 2019
The Holy Grail, 1931
Roxy Paine, Yield, 2011
Frank Lloyd Wright, Bachman-Wilson House, 1954. Reconstructed on the museum campus in 2015.