Kansas City, MO

The large shuttlecocks on the lawn at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri

CJ Coombs

Nelson Art Gallery from the south side.Americasroof at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

If you live in Kansas City, then you're probably familiar with the lawn sculptures of the large-scaled shuttlecocks at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Whether you go visit the museum or just drive by, these pieces of sculpture are very visible. The artists who created them are well-known in their community.

Sculptor Claes Oldenburg

Claes Oldenburg, a Swedish-American Pop-art sculptor, was born in Stockholm in 1929. In 1936, his family settled in Chicago. Oldenburg was educated at Yale University where he focused on writing. He also attended the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1953, he opened his own studio and became an American citizen. Oldenburg became more prominent when he moved to New York in 1956. There, he met other artists and his work was exhibited. His first outdoor piece of art was named Placid Civic Monument and was displayed in 1967.

Press conference in Museum Ludwig, Cologne, for opening of the exhibition "Claes Oldenburg - The Sixties."© Raimond Spekking/CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons).
In 1961 he rented a storefront, called it The Store, and stocked it with stuffed, crudely-painted forms resembling diner food, cheap clothing, and other mass-manufactured items that stupefied an audience accustomed to the austere, non-representational forms in Abstract Expressionist sculpture. These so-called "soft-sculptures" are now hailed as the first sculptural expressions in Pop art. (Source.)

Many of Oldenburg's projects that were large-scale were in collaboration with Coosje van Bruggen who he married in 1977. They were married for 32 years until her death in 2009. Oldenburg lived and worked in New York, California, and the Loire Valley, France.

Spoonbridge and Cherry in Minnesota.Photo by Lydia Venjohn on Unsplash.

Sculptor, art historian, and critic, Coosje van Bruggen

Coosje van Bruggen was a Dutch-American born in the Netherlands in 1942. She studied art history. In 1967, she worked as an assistant curator of painting and sculpture. She left the museum in 1971 to join the Enschede Academy of Visual Arts to teach art history and fine arts.

In 1976, during Oldenburg's installation of an art piece in the Netherlands, van Bruggen suggested changing the color of the sculpture. Oldenburg accepted her suggestion and they began collaborating. They got married in 1977 and moved from the Netherlands to New York. For three decades, they collaborated on many projects. Their large-scale projects included items like the shuttlecocks in Kansas City or a broom and a dust pan outside of the Denver Art Museum. Besides having projects installed in the United States, they also have objects in Asia and Europe.

In 1982, she worked as a curator, art historian, and artist. Van Bruggen was also the main historian of Oldenburg's work. During the years 1979 through 1991, she completed five books that included the projects they collaborated on.

In 1993, van Bruggen became an American citizen. From 1996 to 1997, she served as Senior Critic in the Department of Sculpture at Yale University School of Art. Her last collaboration with Oldenburg called Tumbling Tacks was installed in Norway in 2009. Many of their pieces are shown on their official website.

Click here to listen to a 1995 podcast related to Oldenburg and van Bruggen that was recorded at the National Gallery of Art.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author; 30 years of legal secretarial experience; BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. Thinker, giver, and lover of life. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, truth, non-fiction, reading, history, and travel.

Kansas City, MO

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