Unnoticed Masterpieces

Don't allow these museum staples to just fade into the background

At 17 feet tall and 54 feet wide, the Coral Springs mural is almost identical in size to Mantegna's Edge, although it's made not of canvas but of tiles -- 7,000 of them, individually cast and glazed. The piece was developed for the museum as an artists-in-residence project by Jan Kolenda and John Foster, who worked with a large group of volunteers to coordinate the undertaking.

Like the Boca Museum's mural, this one takes on a different character whether you look at it from afar, so that the tiles work together to form a simple Everglades landscape, or from up-close, where the meticulous details of the individual tiles become evident. It's as deceptively simple-looking but really intricate and complex as the ecosystem it celebrates.

Another relative newcomer to the "Incidental Pleasures" circuit (and my current favorite) is Persian Sea-life Ceiling, an elaborate glass installation in the newest wing at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach. It's by American artist Dale Chihuly, a superstar in the glass-art world if ever there were one. Chihuly's Norton ceiling is housed in its own little gallery that has the feel of a chapel of sorts. There are a few chairs, tables, and benches, and a thin sheet of waterfall cascades in front of the big windows that line the curving south wall of the space.

Chihuly's ceiling.
Chihuly's ceiling.
Mantegna's Edge: Keep your eyes peeled.
Mantegna's Edge: Keep your eyes peeled.


Boca-561-392-2500, Coral Springs-954-340-5000, Fort Lauderdale-954-525-5500, West Palm Beach-561-832-5196
Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Mizner Park, Boca Raton; Coral Springs Museum of Art, 2855 Coral Springs Dr., Coral Springs; Museum of Art, One E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach

Go ahead: Loosen up and lie on your back on one of the benches -- it's the only way to get the full effect of the ceiling, which consists of 693 pieces of blown glass behind a large plate of glass that seems to radiate light. (The lighting is a bit harsh in isolated spots, but that's a minor quibble.) If you get the weird sensation of being a snorkeler or scuba diver exploring an exotic reef in which the colorful flora and fauna are made of shimmering glass, relax. That's the desired effect.

It's all too easy to take these aesthetic treasures for granted. Like the permanent collections and sculpture gardens of these and other museums (a topic for future exploration), they become so much a part of the cultural landscape that we may breeze past them, assuming we've taken them in before even if we've never really paused to pay close attention. That may be a common mistake, but it's one there's no acceptable excuse for making.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help