- Ada, Oklahoma

September 6, 2013

Crystal Bridges, art museum worthwhile tour destination

Dorothy Milligan Byng Correspondent

Ada —

Now that public schools are underway, many people who are childless are taking their summer-time vacation.  It’s a good time.  Weather is pleasant; traffic is light, and often there is no waiting line at attractions. Many of us are discovering that a mini-vacation of three or four days is more enjoyable than a lengthy excursion of two weeks, and we can find something new and interesting to visit that is close to home. We really enjoy ourselves.

I have recently come back from such a mini-vacation which I enjoyed immensely, and I feel compelled to share my enjoyment with all who will listen.  My son , Tim Milligan, and his wife Loyce, Hot Springs, Ark., came  Wednesday and divulged their plans for us for the next several days. It involved kin-folk visitation and a first-time experience with an unusual art museum.

We traveled on Thursday  to Gentry, Ark., to visit with Loyce’s daughter and son-in-law, Phyllis and James Berry.  She is a teacher in the Gentry school system.  My grandson, Steve, and his sons, Cassidy and Garion, Fayetteville, came for dinner that night.  They have moved to Arkansas from Colorado within the past year, so I am looking forward to seeing them more frequently now.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Ark., was our destination on Friday morning. The grounds of the museum are as much a part of the experience of Crystal Bridges as the art inside.  More than three miles of trails invite the visitor to enjoy the beauty of the Ozark forest. Scattered along the trails are some 17 sculptures depicting  a variety of subjects including bears, the hare and the tortoise,  and a native sandstone trbute to the thousands of Native Americans who perished during the Trail of Tears.  It is called ‘A Place Where They Cried.’

Celebrating the American Spirit is the title of Crystal Bridges’  permanent collection. Special emphasis on a changing America in the 1930s and 1940s is made in a collection which is on exhibit from Aug. 31 to Jan. 6, 2014. Surveying George Washington is a complementary exhibit which will be displayed until Sept. 30.

I was intrigued by a larger-than-life bust by Evan Penny titled "Old Self" which is a portrait of the artist as an old man.  To create "Old Self," Perry carved his self-portrait out of hard foam using digital scans of his body and computer control milling. He then made a mold of the carving and cast it in modeling clay. He was able to rework and refine the surface details. The finished clay figure was then cast in silicone and Perry painted  its defining features.  The photo-realist sculpture shows every wrinkle, hair and imperfection. The completed work looks vividly realistic, but its large size and flatness emphasizes its artificiality. I think it intrigued me because usually people having a portrait made want an opposite approach — wrinkles and imperfections airbrushed and erased.  We want to put our best foot forward and show our best self.

"Angels and Tomboys” is the title of a special exhibit which features girlhood in 19th Century American art.  It is a collection gathered from several museums and it explores how young  girls became popular subjects for American artists in the 1800s. Girls were commonly thought of as innocent and pure. Girls who were quiet, sweet-tmpered, and well-behaved were sometimes called “angels.

After the Civil War, artists began painting girls as less “angelic” and more active and were often portrayed as “tomboys.” 

The collection was arranged chronologically and effectively tells the story of America’s history as seen by the artists.

It is interesting that the museum was built by one of the daughters of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart.  People who live in Bentonville  appreciate her philosophy that art and nature are vital to the human spirit and should be accessible to all. The Biblical statement that “a prophet is not without honor except in his own area” does not seem to apply here. In the Bentonville area, I heard only positive comments.  

From Bentonville we drove to Hot Springs, the home of my son and daughter-in-law where  I did more kinfolk visiting.  My grandson, Tim D. Milligan, his wife Rhonda and daughter, Britanny, drove over from Ozark on Friday night and stayed until Saturday afternoon.  Tim and Loyce returned me to my home Sunday afternoon.  I thoroughly enjoyed my mini-vacation, and as always, the nicest thing about taking a trip is getting to come home afterward.


Baptist Village has two new residents who formerly lived at Byng.  Mary Jo Samora graduated from Byng High School and has fond memories of J.E. Teague as superintendent.  Several residents of Baptist Village became acquainted with Mary Jo on an Alaskan tour several years ago.  

Glen Taylor moved into the Village last Saturday.  He drove a bus for the school for several years.