Upon entry into the Columbia Museum of Art, look up for one piece pointing right at you, even before a walk into any gallery.
Dale Chihuly’s untitled chandelier from 2009-10 might look a tornado of red, orange, gold and clear snakes, but it’s actually 798 individual pieces of blown and hot-worked glass, metal and wire, in colors of a sunset. The wall card states the object comprises 11 different shapes, weighs almost 1 ton, and spans 14 feet in length, 11 feet in width and 6 feet in depth.
A peer at this work from below or on the side from the atrium mezzanine marks a fitting, fiery way to start or close a visit at this museum, which might easily consume a few hours of an afternoon, especially on Sundays, when admission is free.
The museum’s 7,000 artworks span millennia, going as far back to about 4200 B.C. The introduction to the collection begins upstairs in the “Ancient” gallery, with seven busts of portraiture, perhaps the most famous genre of Roman art. Look up close and see the different personality in each, whether through such expressions in hair style, downturned lips, bushy hair or thick eyebrows.
Even outside this time of Lent and Passover, guests can indulge their eyes in many religious themed works. In “Joseph Presenting His Father and Brothers to the Pharaoh,” oil on canvas by François Boucher from about 1723-26, includes its original ornate frame. Besides the gesturing made by the subjects, they look strong physically, amid the waves in their tunics and the rug that lines the marble stairs.
The gentle connection of a child doting on her pet, resting on her right hand, shows in “Girl with Black Dove,” painted in 1715-30 by Giuseppe Maria Crespi.
A Monet, “The Seine at Giverny (L’Ile aux Orties, Giverny),” from 1897, commands its own wall. In this serene scene, the water reflects the sky in blues, purples, pinks and greens. Step back for an even clearer view.
A similar feeling might arise in viewing an untitled seascape, an oil on paperboard, mounted to fiberboard, by William Trost Richards from about 1890. The rolling surf beneath a pastel sky might prompt thoughts of a common scene at dusk at Myrtle Beach State Park.
Two special exhibits give Japan the spotlight.
In “Meiji Magic: Imperial Porcelain from Japan,” 29 pieces from 1868-1912 on view through May 18, one plate shows a spring scene and festival, among pieces that give insight into the country’s lifestyle and culture from more than a century ago.
Back downstairs in the museum, “Japan and the Jazz Age,” with more than 120 works from the 1920s-‘30s, hits its final stride, concluding April 20. This Art Deco collection includes two striking, wall-size paintings, each with a woman.
Stop by “Aquarium (Gyoso)” by Enomoto Chikatoshi, and look up and into a tank where the fish appear to swim in a pattern, but also at the viewer, with a ribbon in her hair, purse clutched in her left arm and right hand on the railing. Fish tanks are known for creating a relaxing setting for people, but watching someone soothe herself in this instance, and wondering about her thoughts, might only double the reward.
Nakamura Daizaburo’s “White Western Clothes” shows a woman standing in a white gown down to her feet, with one hand on her hip and the other on the back of a chair, in a more western look accented by her hair and jewelry.
Don’t leave this exhibit without a peek at Kano Seiun II’s “Ornament of Peacock” gilt bronze. Its tail in a flail is decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay.