Upper White River Basin Featured at Crystal Bridges

by: Angela Danovi, Arkansas Projects Manager

A few years ago while I visiting Crystal Bridges, I came across a beautiful piece of art which depicted our basin, the Upper White River Basin. In a single sculpture, the artist depicted one main idea I have spent the last several years working to share with everyone living in or associated with our watershed: that we are all connected together through water and we all live downstream.

The beauty of this sculpture at Crystal Bridges is that we see the water which connects us and flows through our land. But, we don’t see state lines, county boundaries, cities, or other artificial barriers that we perceive and live with every day, but which are invisible and meaningless to the water.

The sculpture, “Silver Upper White River” by Maya Lin is made from recycled silver and represents the 722 miles of the Upper White River running through Arkansas and Missouri. Beaver Lake is depicted on the far left-hand side of the sculpture with the White River flowing into and forming Table Rock Lake, Lake Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals.

Beaver Lake portion of the sculpture

The descriptive panel with the piece explains that the artist chose the medium of silver because “when Europeans arrived in the Americas, there were so many fish in the streams that the reflections off of their backs gave rise to the term, ‘running silver.'”

In a public conversation held earlier this year with James Steward, Director of the Princeton University Art Museum, Lin was asked to explain why water has been an enduring feature in her artwork. “I’ve always been drawn to a very still use of water,” Lin said. “I’m in love with things that aren’t what you think they’re going to be. I want to ‘still’ the water down until it’s barely moving, and then you engage with the piece. Water has a propensity to be both very powerful and extremely calm. I love the fact that you have a language and materiality that can transform itself completely.”

Photo from Crystal Bridges Blog

It’s hard to capture the size and scale of Lin’s “Silver Upper White River” in a single photograph. The sculpture sits over the museum’s lower pond and can be seen from across the museum through the windows inside Eleven. The next time you are at Crystal Bridges, you can sit at a table in the restaurant and look across the water towards the museum’s lower galleries where you will see this sculpture or you can spend some time walking over to get an artistic birds eye view of our connected water.