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Metro traffic is metro traffic, whether you're trying to get across the river into North Little Rock from Little Rock or from Fayetteville into Bentonville. That's where we found ourselves Thursday morning on the way to attend a media preview for a new room at Crystal Bridges.

Museum officials informed us that we needed to arrive a few minutes before 9 a.m., and wouldn't you know it, we ended up arriving a few minutes after. That can usually go one of two ways, with the PR person making the trip a nightmare or graciously extending some forgiveness and understanding.

Fortunately for us, the media relations director at the museum is Beth Bobbitt.

The new piece we were there to see is called Infinity Mirrored Room--My Heart is Dancing into the Universe. Its designer is Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who is still working at the age of 90. She seems like the "I'll rest when I'm dead" kind of person, a real art trooper. If we're half as competent and energetic at 90, we'll consider that something special.

Before we went into this room, we spoke with a friendly curator by the name of Alejo Benedetti. He's knowledgeable but not snooty, a fantastic combination in the world of art.

Mr. Benedetti told us the Infinity Mirrored Room is "not just an artwork you look at."

"It's part of something that seems infinite," he said.

He had some great tidbits about Yayoi Kusama, like how in the 1950s she wrote to an artist you might be familiar with named Georgia O'Keeffe, asking for art advice. She was told to come to the U.S. and eventually made it to New York City, becoming a big figure during the avant-garde art scene of the 1960s.

It seems Yayoi Kusama shared shows with other great artists like Andy Warhol. In 1965, she designed her first infinity room, and other variations since then. The one Crystal Bridges has installed was completed in 2018.

We were led over to the room and told we'd be allowed inside for one minute. And 60 seconds isn't a lot of time for newsfolk to absorb art.

How can we describe the room? It's like being in another world. The room is dark and filled with mirrors and dotted paper lanterns. Apparently Yayoi Kusama likes dots. They're a staple in her artwork.

A narrow path weaves through round paper lanterns that are changing colors between greens, oranges, blues, pinks, yellows, purples and more. Surrounding the room are walls of mirrors reflecting all of these lanterns and the image of whomever is wandering through.

The enclosed space isn't overly large, maybe the size of an average bedroom. And yet, with the reflective surfaces, darkness and changing colors, the space seems infinite. A sense of wonder filled us while we were there, wandering on the path between lanterns and trying not to trip and fall into the illusion of an abyss.

That must have been what Yayoi Kusama wanted folks to experience. Rewatching a video of the space can't compare to the experience of actually being in the room. And one of the neatest parts about this display is it'll be unique for every single soul that enters, with all the reflective surfaces. The person experiencing the art truly becomes part of the exhibit.

After a brief time in the room, the door opened and the attendant called for us to exit. What? Already? We just got in here. Let us process, people. But rules are rules. Everyone gets one minute, even the photographers from local television stations.

Stepping back outside into the world of light felt like returning from some dimension where time flows differently. It might have been one minute in the real world, but in there? It felt like 10 seconds. We had to tap the concrete floor a few times upon exiting to make sure it was real and we could stand on it. Then we took another five or six seconds to shake and look around.

Can we return to the world of colored lanterns?

Walking over to another reporter, we heard her ask, "What did you think?" And we just couldn't gather an answer. How describe what we'd just witnessed? Some portal into another world wholly separated from this one, but only by four walls and a ceiling? What did we just see? What did we just experience?

Whatever it was, it'll be open to you, and the public, on Oct. 2. We recommend.

While we waited for others to have their turn in the room, we wandered around the exhibit to see that Crystal Bridges had added new art from Portrait of a Florentine Nobleman by Kehinde Wiley and The Good Shepherd by Henry Ossawa Tanner. Mr. Benedetti said one exhibit outside the infinity room was meant to show abstraction and repetition. Another showed figuration of the human form.

Yayoi Kusama is not the only new addition to the museum. But her piece certainly left the biggest impact on us as we drove away from Bentonville. Hopefully you get the chance to see it and the other new works, Gentle Reader. They're really something.

Now if you'll excuse us, we need to go ponder about what life truly means as we float through an infinite cosmos on a speck of dust called Earth. Maybe Voltaire or John Locke can help.

Editorial on 09/09/2019

Print Headline: In another world


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