Crystal has been a long-term part of our culture from ancient times. With a history of being a precious metal in India, and as a gift to kings and queens in Egypt, the concept of crystal has traveled and evolved. It was the first precious metal to be discovered, and it became the most valuable metal in Europe. Today it still holds its value, despite the changing political climate and the increasing commercialization of the art world.
In Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Lauren Haynes and Joachim Pissarros, co-curators of Crystal Bridges Contemporary Art, look at how crystals have changed through the centuries as art medium. According to an exhibition scheduled by the curator of modern art in Crystal Bridges Museum of Art, Joachim Pissaro, Crystals in Art – Ancient to Modern explores the rich and diverse connections between art and crystal throughout history.
Themes of crystals have permeated the art that is created in the present. Pissaro uses the crystal as a central theme for his collection of modern art. The crystal, he said, “is embedded in our culture,” and in contemporary art from the artist uses it as a guide. Crystals and other objects, like flowers, are used in the painting “Lilies and the Chrysanthemum” by Andy Warhol; in “Strawberries and Champagne” by Diane Arbus; and in Warhol’s famous “Campus Fountain.”
Pissaro and Haynes found that the relationship between crystals in art and the artist and his/her work was not always clear. Some artists did not like the idea of crystals as part of their work, so the connection was often tenuous. Still, some artists made a point of including them in their works. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a painting titled “The Crystal Ball,” done by Andy Warhol in 1986. In this piece, Warhol uses a crystal ball to symbolize life. The crystal is surrounded by flowers and other flowers, and as the artist points out, there is an inherent connection to life and the natural world in Warhol’s use of the crystal ball.
Crystal as an important part of art was not lost on contemporary artists either. In an exhibit entitled “Citrine,” sponsored by the Crystal Bridges Museum and displayed by the Art Society of Baltimore, artist Eloise Anderson showed how the color and purity of crystals can enhance the beauty of works of art. Anderson created an oil painting using a combination of crystals and mother of pearl, and in the same way she highlighted the colors of the crystals. she highlighted her own sense of spirituality and femininity. The art in the exhibit, which featured photographs of people from all over the world, included both African and Native American cultures, displayed the power of crystals in art and highlighted the fact that they hold special meaning in different cultures.
The crystals in the art that Pissaro sees as meaningful in contemporary art are those with more to do with the beauty of nature than that of the artist and the artwork created with them. “I see crystals as a reminder of the richness of life and nature,” he said. “It is possible to find art made entirely of crystals that have meaning, beauty, and beauty that transcend the artist and the art.” “Crystals are always going to be the subject matter of art,” he continued. “It is up to us, as artists, to use our ability to perceive and interpret them to enrich what we create.” And in his words, “crystals in art are the perfect representation of the infinite.”