Last night was the artist and sponsor reception for State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now. Some 70 artists whose work is in the exhibition attended.
For those of us who have been working behind the scenes, it was a powerful experience to meet face-to-face the real live people whose names, bios, and artwork we have been working with for so many months. I had the opportunity to stand in the lobby and greet the artists as they arrived before the event, and it was truly a privilege.
In truth, it must have been just a bit creepy for the artists. Because their names and faces have become so familiar to us, we feel as if we know these individuals, and of course, they don’t know us from Adam. There were several times I welcomed an artist by name and was met with a look of bewilderment. Several other staff members described the same experience.
Another one of the true pleasures of this event was watching the artists meet and interact with one another. While some knew or were even friends with other State of the Art artists from their city or state, the artists were almost completely unknown to one another outside their specific regions. It was those cross-country connections that were so much fun to observe.
Case in point: here are (from left)Cleveland, Ohio-based ceramicist Kristen Cliffel, Cincinnati-based conceptual artist Terence Hammonds, Brooklyn-based artist Jeila Gueramian (center) flanked on either side by Lauren Was and Adam Eckstrom, the Brooklyn-based duo Ghost of a Dream; then to their left, English-born, Kansas-based painter Mary Kay, and Tennessee artist Jeff Whitmore, all of whom have been dancing on the interactive dance stages of Hammonds’s installation You’ve Got To Get Up To Get Down.
When I asked the artists I met in the galleries this morning (many returned today for a more leisurely incognito stroll through the exhibition) what it was like to meet the other artists, I got variations on the same responses, following a brief moment of open-mouthed, wordless ponderment: “It was overwhelming.”
It will take time to gauge the impact of State of the Art: on the artists involved, on the art community, and on Crystal Bridges itself, our community and audiences. But who knows? Bringing these artists together here in Bentonville might, over time, form the seeds of a trans-continental artist community that could continue to thrive and grow, long after the exhibition closes.
Today is Day One. Stay tuned: there’s so much more to see.
By the way: Our new incarnation of the State of the Art website includes examples mini-pages for each of the artists! Check it out!