The NC Art Museum: Part Three

I completed my indoor museum tour with a visit into the beautiful Rodin gallery. French 20th century sculptor Auguste Rodin created hundreds of bronze-cast sculptures, most modeled after the human body or the human experience. Rodin was an expert at capturing motion and emotion in still material. My personal favorite, “The Kiss,” captured a loving embrace between two infatuated youths. Some say the man and woman depicted in the sculpture are actually meant to be Rodin and his mistress/muse Camille Claudel.

"The Kiss" by Auguste Rodin. Photo by Melanie Langness.

“The Kiss” by Auguste Rodin. Photo by Melanie Langness.

I finally exited my personal heaven into the amazing Rodin Garden, an outdoor offshoot of the Rodin Gallery. The garden was lovely. It featured life-size sculptures centered around an interesting, flat fountain, and was superbly accented with tasteful vegetation.

The Rodin Garden. Courtesy of

The Rodin Garden. Courtesy of

I followed the manicured path from the Rodin Garden back to the main plaza and parking lot, and then began a new journey through the gently rolling fields of the museum’s parkland. On my way there, I was awestruck by a hyper-realistic metallic tree, “Askew” by Roxy Paine. This sculpture was specially commissioned by the museum to celebrate the 2010 renovation. Paine refers to the sculpture as a “dendroid,” rather than just a tree, and has been quoted saying that his aim with the piece was “to illuminate the complex, constant collisions amongst dendritic structures and man-made systems.”

"Askew" by Roxy Paine. Photo by Melanie Langness.

“Askew” by Roxy Paine. Photo by Melanie Langness.

The park is divided into easily navigable “loop” trails. I chose the Blue Loop. As I walked the smooth asphalt path I stopped every couple hundred of feet to appreciate the interesting outdoor art pieces and intriguing people. I saw families laughing in the tall grass of the fields as  photographers captured the candid moments. I strolled past huge sculptures into the wooded trails, excited to visit “Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky,” a 2003 architectural natural wonder by Chris Drury. At first glance, the skillfully constructed monument blends into the woods and looks like a grassy hill, but when you get closer, the intricate hut appears. I walked into the little sanctuary and shut the oak door, submerging myself into total distance. I stared at the floor, waiting for the breezy shape of the tree canopy above to appear, like a mystical apparition, below my feet. According to, Drury utilized prisms and physics to create this amazing piece:

This shelter operates as an oversized camera obscura or a pinhole camera. A small aperture in the roof projects an inverted image of the sky onto the floor of the chamber, an effect that seems to pull the sky down to the viewer. Inside, one’s perspective is turned upside down. Instead of looking up at the sky, trees, or clouds, one looks down on them from above.”

"Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky" by Chris Drury. Photo courtesy of the NCMA.

“Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky” by Chris Drury. Photo courtesy of the NCMA.

After my Cloud Chamber visit, the setting sun persuaded me to begin walking back to my car. The dense woods started to seem coldly creepy, and I understood why the museum mandates that all visitors exit the premises before daylight hours fade away.

The North Carolina Museum of Art is an absolutely amazing hidden gem of our state. Its galleries contain rare and revered works found nowhere else in the world, and its new renovation boasts world class architecture. The expertly landscaped grounds further the surreal feeling that the NCMA, a haven for anyone to come and appreciate beautiful workmanship, exudes. As I wandered through the bright white halls, I felt completely at peace, happily immersed into an artsy wonderland.