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No foolish games here. Jewel, a darling of the 1990s whose first album went 12 times platinum, has created a unique project for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, her first official foray into visual art.

“I just got a call one day from Jewel saying she’s interested in working with the museum,” Rod Bigelow, the executive director of Crystal Bridges, tells The Art Newspaper. “Jewel has been a face in Bentonville and the Ozarks.” He says that she was likely drawn to Crystal Bridges specifically because of its “blending of nature into the work that we do—art and nature, architecture and wellness. It’s an experiment, but why not?”

“Crystal Bridges was my first and only choice,” Jewel says, adding that she feels closely aligned with the museum. “I love that it’s in the Ozarks and all about democratising art. Arkansas also reminds me of where I was raised” in Alaska. (She now lives in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.)

A rendering of the drone choreography that will accompany a new composition by Jewel above the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Opening in May, The Portal: An Art Experience by Jewel will combine art, music and food in an immersive installation focused on the “three human spheres: Inner, Seen and Unseen”—the musician’s New Age take on Kierkegaard’s Spheres of Existence. (“When our three spheres are aligned, there’s happiness,” Jewel says.) Ten works chosen by Jewel from Crystal Bridges’ collection (by artists like Ruth Asawa, Fred Eversley, Julie Mehretu, Mickalene Thomas and Sam Gilliam) will appear alongside one of her own paintings and a sculpture. The Portal will feature a meditative art walk through Crystal Bridges’ contemporary wing, a hologram of Jewel to welcome visitors (the singer also wrote the wall labels), a 200-drone light show set to her new ten-minute composition over the museum’s pond and a culinary component.

Although famous as a musician, Jewel says she has always been interested in visual art—and perhaps could have gone on to be an artist had she not been discovered by a record executive while playing at a coffee shop in San Diego in the early 1990s. “I started carving marble and working with clay in high school,” she says, and while studying music at Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan as a teenager, she got a job as a model for a sculpture class to make some extra money. Jewel was so enthusiastic and “asked so many questions”, she says, that the teacher let her join the class and make some of her own work.

Jewel, Double Helix, 2024, oil on aluminum

“Sculpture taught me about songwriting, especially abstract sculpture,” Jewel says. “A lot of hit songs have very simple and geometric patterns—like Beatles songs, for example.” She equates art of all kinds with philosophy, casually citing Pascal by saying: “Shape is the first language,” and sees drone shows as “sculptures in the sky”. Recently, Jewel has also gotten into oil painting; a painting she made of her son appears in The Portal.

“Jewel is definitely a multidisciplinary artist. We helped craft The Portal, but she took a lot of time with our team,” Bigelow says. “She has fallen in love with the project and texts or emails me about it every other day.”

  • The Portal: An Art Experience by Jewel, 4 May-28 July, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

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