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Expanding the Cycle of Creative Energy with Kristen Cliffell

Kristen Cliffel talks with visitors in the gallery during the State of the Art Symposium

Kristen Cliffel talks with visitors in the gallery during the State of the Art Symposium

Kristen Cliffel

Kristen Cliffel

Today we present another guest blog post: this time by State of the Art artist Kristen Cliffel.  Cliffel participated in the Museum’s Symposium in November, and returns to Crystal Bridges this coming weekend to lead both adult and youth workshops in making art using your own memorabilia.  (Learn more about them here:  there are still a few spaces left.) We are so pleased that the State of the Art artists who have participated in programming at Crystal Bridges have had such positive experiences with our Museum and our community.  It illustrates how reciprocal creative energy is:  the artists who participate in programs with our guests and other artists receive as much energy as they expend.  We, as audiences, inspire them as much as they, as artists, inspire us.  That makes us, the viewers and learners, a genuine and important part of the art!  We are grateful to all who participate on both sides of that win-win equation! –LD

I had never been to Northwest Arkansas before I was asked to participate in the State of the Art exhibition last year.  Now I’m coming back, and it is feeling more like a second home than not!

My husband and I flew out for the opening back in September and were sufficiently shocked and awed by the grandeur of the grounds and the museum itself.  The State of the Art show continues to hold my attention, even from afar, as I learn more about each of the artists in the exhibition and also the people who have made it happen.

Kristen Cliffel talks with visitors in the gallery during the State of the Art Symposium

Kristen Cliffel talks with visitors in the gallery during the State of the Art Symposium

The Symposium in November was an awesome experience for me. I was not only a participant on a panel about Home as the Artist Residency, but I also got to take a class from one of the other artists, Lenka Clayton!  My parents flew in to Bentonville to see the exhibition for the symposium weekend and arrived just in time to have a glass of wine and slip into Lenka’s class with me!

We hadn’t met Lenka, but the description of her class sounded exciting and right up our alleys! My mother is also an artist and makes found-object collage sculptures, so she was super game to learn a new skill and meet another fabulous artist!  My father is an eye surgeon, so he is great with his hands and very creative as well.  Lenka gave a great slide talk that we all loved, a really wonderful intro into her work and world, and she made us feel at ease with the process of felting.  We all loved the premise of “Making Dangerous Objects Safe”!

My parents came to the exhibition in the morning while I was chatting about my two pieces in the SOTA.  Here they are…

Kristen Cliffel's mom and dad, pictured with "Destroyer," 2012, by Dan Webb.

Kristen Cliffel’s mom and dad, pictured with “Destroyer,” 2012, by Dan Webb.

Saturday was great, I got to see a lot more of the Crystal Bridges permanent collection, as well as continue viewing State of the Art more intently than I had at the opening weekend.  I met some great folks who work at the museum and who were super effusive about the exhibition; and a few who stopped me to let me know how much they enjoyed having my work on site!

One of the highlights of my time at the museum was having my parents, who are true art lovers and museum goers, totally wowed by the collection and the State of the Art show.  We had a great lunch and debriefing at Eleven in the middle of the day before my panel began.

The panel that I was a part of was so interesting and I absolutely loved being a part of it!  Lenka Clayton presented first and I adored seeing her work and hearing her talk about her process.  Alberto Aguilar and his family were next, and truly had a unique presentation that almost brought me to tears, with the finale being a composition by his 16-year-old daughter.  I was thrilled to have my parents in the audience and felt very at home and comfortable communicating my process and work with everyone who attended. So many people connected with the artists that weekend, it was really magical.

I got to see a few more panel discussions during the weekend that really enhanced my experience with the work in State of the Art.  Learning about the practices of so many different artists really was explosive intellectually and creatively.

I am getting ready to come back to Crystal Bridges and meet more community members and museum people again this week. I am really looking forward to my workshops on Saturday and Sunday with children and adults!  We will be creating small personal narratives: sort of frozen moments in time with objects from the backs of our minds and the bottoms of our hearts.  I always treasure the time I have to work in the studio with other makers.  Inspiration floods my soul when I see people discovering things about themselves through creating artwork.  I usually end up wanting to buy the pieces that my students make!!! Of course they are too valuable to give up and I love seeing students go home with their new creations!

Who knew a year ago that travelling to Northwest Arkansas from Cleveland, Ohio could be so exciting and fulfilling! I really feel like I have won the lottery this year with all of these new experiences and opportunities to share my world and work with so many others in a new and beautiful place like Crystal Bridges.

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