Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas recently announced that the exhibition State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now will feature 102 artists from all over the country. Bethany College Art Professor A. Mary Kay’s work will be included in State of the Art, which debuts at Crystal Bridges on September 13.
Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi and Assistant Curator Chad Alligood traveled to Lindsborg in December 2014 to conduct an interview with Kay as part of the search for the most compelling American art being created today.
This studio visit was one of nearly 1,000 stops made by the curatorial team during a year-long, 100,000 mile journey across the country to discover artists whose work has not yet been fully recognized. The result is a one-of-a-kind exhibition that draws from every region of the U.S., offering an unusually diverse and nuanced look at American art. The 102 artists selected range in age from 24 to 87, including 54 male and 48 female artists from across the country.
Kay will exhibit “Zenith” a large three-paneled oil painting 7‘ X 18’ in the exhibition. She is immersed in the natural world and has built a collection of objects and detritus from the place where she lives. She uses insects, seeds, wings, flower parts and bones in conjunction with the physicality of paint to speak metaphorically, through translation into a wide vocabulary of painting language. These physical sensations of paint marry the objects and environment to build images that unfold and extend seeing.
It is the enormity of minutiae, infinite variation, taxonomies and mimicry found within the boundaries of her garden that have become catalysts for painting. The beauty found within the lush zenith of summer’s fecundity contains precariousness, the imminent decline of fall. It is this rush of life, and with it the mystery of the infinite connectedness of everything that inspires her. Through painting she summons this frenzy of the intertwining of soil, plants, insects and weather. Wanting to grasp and celebrate the extraordinary buzz within the layers of life found here, she moves herself visually and emotionally further and further in. In “Zenith” she celebrates the fleeting climax of life.
Kay received her MFA from Yale University in 1989 and began teaching at Bethany in 1989. She teaches painting, drawing, and printmaking. Her website is www.marykaypainting.com
“The complexity of themes in the work mirrors the diversity and individuality of the makers. Each artist represents meaningful conversations happening in rural communities, small towns, and more densely populated urban centers all across the country,” said Crystal Bridges assistant curator Alligood. “The artists are responding to the same things we’re all responding to in our daily lives. We hope that this exhibition will inspire new ways to experience contemporary art and the evolving narratives that make up our cultural fabric.”
From works on canvas and paper to photography, video to installation, sculpture to ceramics and more, the diverse range of styles and voices from across the U.S. reflects what’s happening in American art right now.
“The exhibition is a glimpse into the state of art in our nation at this moment,” said Crystal Bridges president Bacigalupi. “Presenting the exhibition at Crystal Bridges provides us an opportunity to see contemporary art in the broader historical context. By examining a wide range of works by artists from across the country, we can gain insight into our nation as a whole: our collective passions, challenges, and concerns.”
The State of the Art exhibition, featuring more than 200 works by the 102 artists, will reach beyond the museum’s temporary exhibition spaces, extending into the permanent collection galleries and activating community areas indoors and out. Visitors to the exhibition will traverse through the museum’s permanent collection galleries, featuring masterworks such as Asher Brown Durand’s Kindred Spirits and Georgia O’Keeffe’s Radiator Building—Night, New York, before arriving at the museum’s 20th century gallery and the beginning of the State of the Art exhibition. The exhibition continues in the temporary exhibition galleries, occupying a total of approximately 19,000 square feet of gallery space.