I came pretty close to tears while viewing some of the works in the major summer exhibition Van Gogh and Nature at the Clark Art Institute. I spent a good twenty minutes staring, dumbfounded, at this Cypresses painting that traveled to Western MA from the Met–the sky embodies exactly how I feel when I’m completely happy and at peace.
I loved that exhibition, but since it consisted of loan works, photography was out of the question. To make up for my lack of pictures of these works that touched me so much, I decided to follow their lead and immerse myself in nature instead: something very easy to do in the beautiful woods that surround the Clark!
The Clark’s permanent collection is filled with landscapes (including the gorgeous Monet featured above), but you don’t have to go too far to find some wild scenery of your own. A network of forested paths connect the main building with a satellite gallery hidden in the woods, where the famous American painting Whistler’s Mother was tucked away while on a rare getaway from its usual French home.
To be honest, though, I was much more interested in discovering another artwork located outside of the building: Thomas Schutte’s Crystal, an outdoor installation that explores different ways of framing landscapes.
In order to reach Crystal, I had to brave a hilly woodland walk to a gated pasture–which I crossed even with the sun at its fiercest. The bright colors of the landscape reminded me very much of the Van Goghs I had seen earlier, particularly with the blue skies and the beautiful Berkshires in the background!
Inside, Crystal is a sleek geometric structure that gave me the bizarre sensation of being a happy alien observing human life from inside my timeless capsule. Modern and isolated in the midst of the meadow, it was like a strange version of the 2001 monolith that you could actually enter (and there wasn’t a single note of Also sprach Zarathustra to be heard).
It was far too hot for most to make the pilgrimage to Schutte’s installation, so I was incredibly pleased to have a few meditative moments to myself.
The Clark’s collections strength is undoubtedly its Impressionist/Post-Impressionist works: both of which were artistic movements that encouraged viewers to broaden their ideas of what a “landscape” should look like. In a way, Crystal does very much the same thing. When you’re gazing out at the hills from between these angular walls, the world becomes focused and contained, allowing you to discover new details about the scenery that surrounds you.
Art and nature blended seamlessly together: the perfect combination!
A brief note: yesterday I visited two Berkshire museums and saw an unprecedented amount of art, which I’ll slowly share through a three-part series of posts! Next time, we’ll hop ahead to the future and discover a world of interactive, playful contemporary art at Mass MOCA in North Adams…