This past weekend, the Knoxville Museum of Art offered the first glimpse of what must be the most anticipated work of art in Knoxville’s history. Months in the making, the massive series of sculptures by Richard Jolley, “Cycle of Life,” now hangs suspended over the Ann and Steve Bailey Hall.
The sculpture was revealed to various groups in a series of events beginning with a press event on Thursday, the GlassFest Street Party on Friday night, the Glass Ball on Saturday night, which attracted Knoxville’s social elite including Mayor Rogero and Governor Haslam. I made it to Sunday’s event, which was the GlassFest Family Fun Day. The festivities included food trucks, a glass-making demonstration and children’s activities under a tent in the North Garden.
The band Northshore played on the stage inside the tent as I arrived. Lead vocalist Elisa Gillespie pretty much nailed a version of “At Last.” Children, strollers and harried parents ran about in every direction, making art, getting faces painted and generally doing what children do. A magician followed the band as Michael Gill handled the emcee duties to keep things running smoothly.
But inside what was formerly known as the “Great Hall,” waited the primary attraction. The permanent installation is massive. Please follow this link to read more details, but the installation is, “100 running feet and soars to 12 feet, making it one of the largest figurative glass-and-steel assemblages in the world, fashioned of thousands of individual cast and blown-glass elements and . . . weighs over seven tons.”
As you can see from the photographs, it’s really too large and spread out to photograph. I think I’ll take a more leisurely shot at doing so when the stroller factor isn’t quite as high. I’d like to spend some time looking at the various components and soaking it in. It’s a work that really demands some focused attention. It is truly a great addition to the museum and to Knoxville.
If Executive Director David Butler appeared a bit fatigued after so many events culminating the lengthy wait, it makes sense. I asked him if there wasn’t some relief at finally having the piece in place. He acknowledged that but noted that he’s already on to the next steps and talked of the need to “continue the momentum.” No rest for the weary, I suppose. I suspect Mr. Butler, who is a very capable leader for the KMA has a plan designed to take the museum to the next level.
The new installation isn’t the only current attraction worth note. I spent some time in the “Facets of Modern and Contemporary Glass” exhibit, as well. It’s another room that will require some contemplation. I focused on trying to photograph the amazing block of glass, designed by Andrew Erdus, titled, “Smoky Sapphire Endless Mountains.” The sign described it as, “mouth blown silverized glass, handmade sapphire can glass, LED lights and a two-way mirror box,” which is a technical way of saying “mind blowing.” It’s also, possibly, unphotographable, though I’m going back for another try. The images contained inside the box stretch to infinity in every direction depending on where the viewer stands. See it at face level and it will completely amaze you.
The Knoxville Museum of Art is a great asset to Knoxville and it’s an easy walk from anywhere downtown. The admission is free and it’s definitely worth the walk to spend some time looking at the installation, the exhibit I mentioned and others. It’s a museum of which we may be proud. The building has regained much of it’s luster through the course of the renovations and restorations and is a stunning testament to the art it houses. Take the walk, if you haven’t already, and see what you think of the changes.
Tonight sees the resumption of the Alive After Five concert series with a show featuring Stacy Mitchart and other blues artists playing from 6:00 – 10:00. The show, originally scheduled for the North Garden, has been moved into the Anne and Steve Bailey Hall (thanks to Knoxzine for the update. The cost is $15 and outdoor vendors will be available. The show will be a very good one and it offers a great chance to explore the museum exhibits. I may stop by there, myself. Maybe I’ll see you there or at BlankFest on Saturday evening.