Can The Sultanette be a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader when she grows up? Wearing barely more than white boots and a smile as big as Texas they’re worth the price of admission to AT&T Stadium. (BTW there’s a football game there, too.) But news flash!
Next time you’re in Dallas, before you join that 100,000-plus crowd to watch those buxom babes on the biggest Jumbotron in the NFL, you might take a detour to the Nasher Sculpture Center. As The Sultanette learned on a recent trip, this temple of tranquility containing one of the finest collections of twentieth century sculpture in the world, offers food for the heart, soul and libido.
Do the names Picasso, Giacometti, Matisse, Henry Moore and Miro ring a bell? To this permanent collection, the Nasher adds featured shows. I was treated to an exhibition of works in glass by Roni Horn of Iceland and New York City – pastel pods weighing 10,000 pounds a piece that look like giant sorbet molds glowing from within.
Horn ascribes offbeat quotes rather than titles to the fluid forms to give the viewer room for individual interpretation. “I don’t like titles that – if you don’t read them, you don’t get the piece,” she says. “I want a title that can be an entrance to something but never an explanation.”
Gazing into one of the pods as if it were a crystal ball, I considered our obsession for full disclosure in the pursuit of intimacy. Might our authentic (to use the tired term) selves be more fully revealed through exploration rather than explanation? If so, you might look at editing those Match profiles.
While we’re on the subject of full disclosure, Matisse’s bronze “Large Seated Nude,” was next on my Nasher tour. All sensuality in bronze, she conveys both gravitas and insouciance. The visitor learns here that Matisse read poetry every morning for inspiration. It was oxygen for his art, he said, “just as when you leap out of bed [and] you fill your lungs with fresh air.”
Thoroughly oxygenated now, I leapt to Anish Kapoor’s “In Search of the Mountain 1” a jewel-toned funnel, richly saturated in sapphire-blue pigment. Kapoor‘s work is informed by his approach to myth. “What is important is not looking at and reading myths as an observer,” he says, “but living them.”
I peered down the center of the funnel. What mythical magical mountain would be revealed at the other end? Even better, the sight line narrows to a distant, pinprick of light beckoning possibility.
Intimacy, tranquility, possibility. As I strolled among the galleries, bathed in the delicate light created by Renzo Piano’s glass walls and vaulted glass ceiling, I wondered if this might be the Nasher’s most precious offering. The impulse to slow down, reflect, have a conversation with these still, silent forms.
Can the impressive Dallas Museum of Art down the street or the dozen other major American art museums offer this? When we join the throngs at blockbuster exhibitions do we lose the awareness that our relationship with a work of art is singular and intimate? Might we better reserve our crowd time for football stadiums?
The secret to Nasher’s magic is surely in its founders. Raymond and Patsy Nasher were not interested in collecting trophies to demonstrate their wealth. They explored the medium, engaged with the artists, embraced a vision to share art with the pubic.
That passion reflected their partnership. A film at the museum sums up Raymond’s enduring love for his wife after she died. Taking the podium at an outside museum event, he begins by telling the assembled that he had put Patsy in charge of the weather for that day. Then looking up he adds, “And as you notice, there is not a cloud in the sky.”
Perfect segue to the sculpture garden designed by landscape architect Peter Walker. There, perched at the edge of a pool dotted with fountains, I came upon Barbara Hepworth’s dual bronze blocks titled “Squares with Two Circles.” Each circle presented two discreet portraits of the garden behind it. One was earthbound, framing a bed of flowers below weeping willow fronds. The other soared with leafy trees and sky.
I walked from left to right and around to the other side. Wherever I stopped, I was treated to a fresh perspective of the world behind the circles – reminded with each new set of portraits that the way I look at the world depends upon the place I choose to stand. Then I looked up, beyond the bronze slabs to the blue above. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Eventually you have to abandon the Nasher for the crowded world outside. But is it entirely the one you left behind? And isn’t that why we escape to art? To leave our square lives and play in someone else’s circle for awhile … the painter, poet, sculptor, curator who gives us another way to look at the world besides our own? Makes you want to put on a pair of white boots and a smile.