‘Gems’ Sparkle in Florida

‘Gems’ Sparkle in Florida

Crystal Bridges joins forces for ‘Cross Pollination’ exhibit


Martin Johnson Heade’s 19th-century series of hummingbird and habitat paintings, “The Gems of Brazil,” is a visitor favorite in the permanent collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The series blends art and science as Heade endeavored to intertwine the two fields, depicting the brilliant colors and delicate features of the hummingbirds (and one butterfly) in their natural habitats.

At the moment, guests won’t find the tiny birds displayed on their usual wall, the 16 evenly spaced pieces presenting a tableau of scientific observation and intricate artistic details seamlessly mingled together. “The Gems of Brazil” have flitted off to the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Fla., to serve as the centerpiece for a new exhibition, “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment.”

The exhibition examines the theme of cross pollination in art and nature from the 19th century to the present. It is also a major collaborative project between Thomas Cole National Historic Site in New York, The Olana Partnership at Olana State Historic Site in New York and Crystal Bridges Museum. Heade’s pieces are the foundation of the exhibition as the project further explores the Gems’ unique relationship to the epic landscapes of Hudson River School artists Thomas Cole and Frederic Church.

s for ‘Cross Pollination’ exhibit
“The Pollinator Pavilion” at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill, N.Y.
(Courtesy Photo/Peter Aaron/OTTO)

“Cross Pollination” debuted at the Cummer Oct. 28 in a national tour organized by Crystal Bridges. It will next travel to the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, N.C., and on to the three organizing institutions through next year. It is the first time in more than two decades that the works from the Gems series will be on tour for public audiences.

Paintings, sketches, sculpture and natural history specimens will be displayed in provocative juxtapositions. Alongside Heade, Cole and Church, artists featured in the exhibition include Emily Cole, Isabel Charlotte Church, Rachel Berwick, Nick Cave, Mark Dion, Richard Estes, Juan Fontanive, Jeffrey Gibson, Paula Hayes, Patrick Jacobs, Maya Lin, Roxy Paine, and more.

The exhibition also coincides with the publication of a companion book by the same name, as well as the debut of “The Pollinator Pavilion” at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site. Artists Mark Dion and Dana Sherwood were inspired by “The Gems of Brazil” to design a space to attract both pollinators and humans, where individuals can see themselves as part of nature and understand their own capacity to foster an environment of ecological balance.

The “Cross Pollination” companion book features new original essays by the exhibition curators — including Mindy N. Besaw, curator of American art and director of fellowships and research at Crystal Bridges — and artwork by the foremost contemporary artists participating in the exhibition.

“Hooded Visorbearer” (1863-64) by Martin Johnson Heade is part of the self-proclaimed artist/naturalist’s series “The Gems of Brazil.” The 16 works that make up the series are the centerpiece of the new collaborative traveling exhibition, “Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment.”
(Courtesy Photo/Dwight Primiano, via Crystal Bridges Museum)

Art lovers eager for the Gems’ return to Arkansas in November of 2021, or enticed to learn more about the exhibition, can already explore Crystal Bridges’ interactive online experience where they can follow Heade’s journey to Brazil in the 1860s and create their own works inspired by his paintings. There is also a collaborative series available on Crystal Bridges’ blog between the Bentonville museum and the Archives of American Art through the Smithsonian that shares the archival backstory on art objects from both collections.

“Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment” opens at Crystal Bridges Nov. 20, 2021.


‘Cross Pollination: Heade, Cole, Church, and Our Contemporary Moment’

WHEN & WHERE — Opens at Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville Nov. 20, 2021; currently on view in Jacksonville, Fla.

INFO — crystalbridges.org/blog, crystalbridges.org/crosspollination

Categories: Galleries