Art Out, Nature In

Art Out, Nature In

Beauty spills out onto museum grounds


For its two new exhibitions, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville brings the art outside and the nature in.

“Color Field” opened June 1 and invites guests to meander the North Forest where large, colorful sculptures occupy every point of view through the forest. “Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment” opened May 25 in the temporary gallery space and uses an artistic lens to consider humanity’s relationship with and effect on the environment.

The two summer exhibitions are being sold as a combo ticket through Sept. 9, when “Nature’s Nation” closes. Though the themes are unrelated, both exhibits also encourage the viewer to reflect back on pieces and messages in the permanent collection.

“It’s an opportunity to think expansively about painting and think expansively about color and about what both of those things can do,” muses Allison Glenn. Glenn is the associate curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and developed “Color Field” after noticing the number of color field paintings in the permanent collection.

The color field painters — like Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and James Turrell — fit between the abstract expressionist movement and the pop art movement, Glenn explains. It’s a form that makes color itself the subject of the work through utilizing large swaths of pigment, focusing on color in a field rather than mark-making or technique.

“I thought, what a wonderful way to introduce some key ideas around color theory and how color impacts not only the color around it, but how color impacts mood, how light impacts color, how color shifts based on the time of day and based on the amount of light available,” Glenn recalls.

As she began thinking about those abstract uses of color, the sculpture exhibition began to take shape. Many guests will remember last year’s Chihuly exhibition in the forest and the museum, and other individual artist projects and public sculptures have been on display throughout the museum’s grounds, but “Color Field” is Crystal Bridges’ very first internally curated outdoor sculpture exhibition.

“We’re thinking critically with the trails and grounds team, with the exhibition designer, myself as a curator, and also with the artists, because all of the artists that I’m working with are living artists,” Glenn says. “So that’s something different, too. There’s a real sense of collaboration.”

A collaboration of sorts is the objective of the exhibition inside, as well. “Nature’s Nation” unites art and science, the environment and the canvas to examine humanity’s place in nature and capacity to cause dramatic change.

More than 100 works of varying media span 300 years of American artists thinking “eco-critically.” Alan C. Braddock, co-curator of the exhibition and associate professor of art history and American studies at the College of William & Mary, explains that eco-criticism is a method of looking at cultural artifacts, in this case visual artifacts, with an eye toward ecology, and was the impetus for “Nature’s Nation.”

The exhibition deals with humanity’s inaccurate belief that the world is unchanging; the scope and scale of human beings’ effect on the planet and other species; and the potential consequences of some of the actions done in the name of progress.

Both “Nature’s Nation” and “Color Field” make connections to works and themes in Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection to tell a new story of American art encompassing ecology, art history and novel perspectives.



‘Color Field’

WHEN — Through Sept. 30

‘Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment’

WHEN — Through Sept. 9

WHERE — Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville

COST — Combo ticket for both exhibits, $16; ‘Color Field’ will be $12 after Sept. 11; both are free to members, veterans and youth 18 and younger

INFO — 418-5700,

Categories: Galleries