My Daughter Cora and I at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas

Lynn and her daughter Cora at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas

Why this photo?

Perhaps memoir in the making as it happens! Desperate for art, my daughter Cora and I spent 2 days at the very end the old year (you know that 2012 year!) taking in some art at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art–this relatively new museum–in Bentonville, Arkansas. It’s about a four hour drive from Lawrence, KS where we both live. This museum designed by architect Moshe Safdie is set in the woods with a natural spring running through it. Quoted from the Crystal Bridges Museum website “The trails and grounds of Crystal Bridges are a must-see part of the Museum experience. More than 3.5 miles of trails wind through the Museum’s 120-acre site, providing guests with access to the beautiful Ozark landscape. Highlights include the historic Crystal Spring, for which the Museum is named, and several outdoor sculptures along the Art Trail. Designed to spark the imagination, the trails help guests form connections to the land and its history, as well as learn about art and Arkansas plant life.”

What got me right away was the buildings’ architecture: a series of pods in the woods; the setting: the woods and pools of spring water. What got me next, was the level of art in this museum. A few of my favorites were the hummingbirds, orchids, and blue butterfly of Martin Johnson Heade from his trips to Brazil. The blue butterfly has one wing in shadow and one in light. Since I have been thinking a lot about shadow this holiday season, I was struck by the visual contrast so beautifully portrayed in this painting. One friend over the holiday talking metaphorically said, “the greater the light in a person, the greater the shadow.” Wow! I thought, here is an exact visual example of what this friend meant, only I am seeing it in the luminous bright blue wing of a butterfly, its other wing so dark, you can barely see it.

From the time my daughter Cora was a little girl on upwards, we have visited art galleries and art museums, mainly in NYC, Washington DC, Boston, and Chicago. To be at Crystal Bridges with her when we both have the love of art and nature, when we both thrive on discussions of whatever is on our minds and in our hearts (this year light and shadow in life and how light and shadow plays out over the Christmas holidays) was how I experienced the light of Xmas. We both saw and seemed to fly on the gorgeous blue luminous light of the Brazilian butterfly.

Now it’s the New Year. I think it was Virginia Woolf who said once you have seen something beautiful in nature, it stays with you forever. You can draw on it for inspiration at any time. Cora’s birthday is tomorrow. I will ask her what was most important to her about our trip to Crystal Bridges. Will she say Heade’s blue butterfly?