Bentonville, Ark. – Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the debut of Crafting America, which will be on view February 6 to May 31, 2021. Timed tickets are available here for $12, and admission is free for members, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants, veterans, and youth ages 18 and under. SNAP participants can call 479.657.2335 to enroll for free entry to temporary exhibitions.
Crafting America is the first exhibition at Crystal Bridges dedicated to the subject of modern and contemporary craft. With over 120 objects made from materials such as wood, glass, fiber, ceramics, metal, and more from 98 American artists, the exhibition tells a broad and inclusive story of craft in the United States from the 1940s to today. Crafting America was co-created by Jen Padgett, associate curator, Crystal Bridges, and Glenn Adamson, guest curator and scholar of craft, design history, and contemporary art. After it closes at Crystal Bridges, the exhibition will travel to the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, June 29 through September 12, 2021.
“At Crystal Bridges, we strive to explore the unfolding story of American art, and this exhibition highlights the technical skill and beauty of making in America,” said Rod Bigelow, executive director and chief diversity & inclusion officer. “We know Crafting America will surprise and delight audiences with its creativity and innovation, and we’re excited to build on our everyday connections with craft through the exhibition, programs, and engagements.”
The exhibition is organized into four parts: Introduction/What is Craft, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Through these sections, the exhibition explores the concept of craft and how closely craft is intertwined with the American experience; how artists shape the objects of daily life; the history and innovation that led to expressive forms of craft; and how the process of making celebrates the quality and materiality of craft.
“There are many different ways to look at craft, but for our purposes, craft is skilled making on a human scale,” said Padgett. “This exhibition allows us to tell a more expansive story about American art because craft has long been an accessible art form for women, people of color, immigrants, Indigenous peoples, veterans, and other marginalized communities. This exhibition highlights a range of mediums and explores how artists have engaged with and reinvented traditional ways of making.”
Ceramics: While Toshiko Takaezu was a multidisciplinary artist, her best-known works are enclosed ceramic forms, ranging in scale from the size of a hand to over six feet tall. A grouping of eleven ceramic sculptures by Takaezu are featured in the Contemporary Art Gallery near works by abstract painters including Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler.
Fiber: Sheila Hicks pushes the boundaries of scale and form to explore the gestural possibilities of fiber. For Mandan Shrine (2016), Hicks wrapped bundles of linen with bright, multicolored thread at rhythmic intervals, creating a sculptural ebb and flow between the tightly bound sections and the loose, organic linen lengths.
Glass: Artist Andy Paiko creates reliquaries from glass, sometimes left empty, sometimes filled with handmade “specimens” evoking those of a historic curiosity cabinet, as seen in Reliquary Group (2020).
Metal: Artist Hoss Haley began tinkering with metalsmithing at a young age in his father’s tool shed on the family farm in Kansas. Haley’s coil sculptures reveal the capabilities of steel, as the joined metal of his works such as Architectural Coil Maquette (2011) create a ribboning effect.
Wood: Wendell Castle’s Chest of Drawers (1962) is an unconventional cabinet with twisting tendrils crawling up it, which cleverly serve both as legs and drawer pulls. It is an early example of the artist’s break from the standard woodworking formats to explore free space.
“Crafting America explores the diversity of craft, which has too often been marginalized,” said Adamson. “The exhibition asserts that skilled making or craft can embody our unique traditions, identities, and values, and is critical to understanding the complexities of the American experience.”
Lipman’s response to the portraits, titled Belonging(s), addresses the theme of migration head-on. The sculpture is in the form of a traveling trunk, and by rendering it in clear cast glass, she allows viewers to see into its interior. Objects that could be associated with the Levy Frankses’ trade and travel have been placed in the interior, such as cacao pods, domestic textiles, religious artifacts, assorted vessels, and chains—all fabricated in glass and developed in response to research into the experiences of Abigaill Levy Franks and her family in a unique act of commemoration. This work is featured in the Early American Art Gallery next to the Duyckinck portraits by which it was inspired.
Crafting America also puts works from the Crystal Bridges collection in conversation with the broad story of craft:
In November 2020, Crystal Bridges announced a $17.5 million gift from the Windgate Charitable Foundation to advance the field of craft through the hiring of a dedicated Windgate Curator of Craft, research, programmatic support, as well as an acquisitions fund to bring craft objects into the museum’s permanent collection. With this support, Crafting America will set the stage for this endeavor into further engagement with craft.
“By foregrounding craft across the institution, we will continue to tell more complex and rich stories about the diverse range of creative work in the country,” said Padgett.
In addition, the museum offers engagements to provide access to more art experiences:
The opening week of Crafting America includes a digital opening exhibition lecture and member preview. Crystal Bridges will also be offering a new, virtual program series called Crafternoons, held weekly for the duration of the exhibition. In this series, hosted by local craft artists, visitors are encouraged to bring their own creative projects and connect virtually with friends. Hosts will share stories and tips as they discuss their current projects and the role that craft plays in their friendship and community. Exhibition programs include:
Visit our calendar for the latest information on programs, offered both on-site and virtually.
Crafting America is sponsored by The Windgate Charitable Foundation (Lead Sponsor), Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry, Phillips, and Morris Foundation, Inc.
Crafting America has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is to welcome all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of nature. Since opening in 2011, the museum has welcomed 5 million visitors, with no cost for admission. The collection spans five centuries of American masterworks from colonial to current day and is enhanced by temporary exhibitions. The museum is nestled on 120 acres of Ozark landscape and was designed by world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie. A rare Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house was preserved and relocated to the museum grounds in 2015. Crystal Bridges offers public programs including lectures, performances, classes, and teacher development opportunities. Some 280,000 school children have participated in the Willard and Pat Walker School Visit program, which provides educational experiences for school groups at no cost to the schools. Additional museum amenities include a restaurant, gift store, library, and 5 miles of art and walking trails. In February 2020, the museum opened a satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville called the Momentary (507 SE E Street). For more information, visit CrystalBridges.org. The museum is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas 72712.