Fantastic Forms

Fantastic Forms

Crystal Bridges explores namesake in unique new exhibition


One might be surprised to learn it’s taken eight years for a museum named Crystal Bridges to present an exhibition on crystals. But when the creative minds at the Bentonville Museum of American Art did decide to put together an exhibition around its namesake, they went all in.

“Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today” mines 5,000 years of crystal use and expands beyond Crystal Bridges’ usual American-made parameters to present a more complete narrative of the roles the material has played throughout history. Still, this innovative exhibition, like nothing that has been done before, only scratches the surface of the representations and uses of crystals.

“I think the idea of doing an exhibition and thinking about crystals has been in people’s minds since the museum started,” says Lauren Haynes, curator, contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts for the Momentary. The process began, she reveals, by considering whether anything like this ever happened before.

“We’re also really thinking about what it means for us to create our own exhibitions — something we’ve been doing a lot of in the last few years. How are we contributing to this conversation and thinking about things that are very specific to our audience?”

That sense of place is certainly present in an exhibit that includes items from all over the globe. Arkansas being known as the Natural State and the quartz crystal capital of the world provided the opportunity to draw connections to the museum’s home in much of the supplemental material and interpretive moments.

Of course, a few physical specimens from Arkansas are displayed in the exhibition as well, among them visitor favorite “The Holy Grail” — the monumental Arkansas-mined quartz crystal formerly on display in the corridor to the South Lobby. As the largest specimen in the exhibition, and one of the largest quartz specimens ever pulled out of the ground, “The Holy Grail” is one piece in “Crystals in Art” that required the museum staff to think about the boundaries and capabilities of the space.

“We used a mini fork lift” to place it, Haynes reveals. She notes that several pieces in the exhibition really forced organizers to consider inventive approaches to problem solving as they explored what the building can accommodate. Some of the arrangement considerations were also in response to the fact the exhibition will not be traveling when its exposition at Crystal Bridges is completed.

“If we’re able, we like traveling shows so they can be out there longer. But some shows it’s just not possible given the variety of loans, the variety of objects, where they come from and a lot of logistics details behind it,” Haynes explains. “So it’s also really nice to think about how can we tailor something [to be] a little bit special knowing that it is only going to be here. What are some of the things we can do that might not be possible if the show was traveling?”

“Crystals in Art” divides 75 pieces — crystal specimens, sculptures, photos, etchings, mixed media and videos, as well as crystals as tools, jewelry and ritual objects — into five thematic sections. Each division begins with a key object that sets the stage for the rest of the section as the viewer is encouraged to ponder spiritual ties, extravagance, science and mysticism, form and how crystals can affect and alter one’s perception.

“This exhibition definitely requires a lot of close looking, for some of the smaller objects in particular, but then also the details of some of the larger things,” Haynes shares. “The conversations in the works are meant to also be seen all together. We’re really wanting people to take away this idea that the ways in which artists and artisans and makers have used crystals in art and in the world varies — this is only a small sampling that we were able to bring together.

“So we want people to leave with maybe even more questions in their mind. Like, what else is out there? What else have I not even thought about when I think about crystals and how they’re used? [We hope they] come away seeing things that they love and are very excited by, but also are being excited to learn more out in the world.”



‘Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today’

WHEN — On display through Jan. 6

WHERE — Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville

COST — $12; free for members, veterans and youth 18 and younger

INFO — 418-5700,

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