My America...Journeys

"Let every fellow tell his tale about." Chaucer

Tuesday, May 01, 2007




Warren D. Jorgensen

I make it a policy to tour any new area via bus on arrival, to get a larger overall view of the area, which is how Jean and I wound up on the on the tramway that transports visitors around the 500 acres of Storm King Art Center.

Within minutes of the start of the ride, we were coming up on what appeared to be another of the monumental sculptures that dot the landscape. It was a box-like frame of shining steel and glass, shoved kitty-corner into the side of the hillside; a singularly distinctive stainless steel and glass contemporary work. Not my cup of tea, but impressive, nonetheless. As odd as it sounds, the towers seemed to fit into the natural scene surrounding it.

“Nice,” I said, “I wonder who did it”, as Jean unfolded the guide on her lap, her finger trying to connect the dots with the artist’s listings. Before she had a chance to answer, the driver enlightened us and pointed up my almost total ignorance on the subject of modern sculpture
“On your left, ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer said “is our new elevator shaft that will connect the grounds to the upper level”. Paula folded the guide and put it back in her purse, smiling smugly.

There are art parks, and there are art parks, but The Storm King Art Center, set amid the rolling hills of the Hudson Valley, always draws me back when I need a day to clear my mind, relax the body, and set the world right. This where I come to gain respite from the world; a place so quiet that a library is a cacophony of noise by comparison. Strolling the lush green slopes, it is easy to get lost in time and space, to be at once calmed and excited by monumental works that weigh upwards of several tons.

These and the monumental works of art created by the artist’s heart and hand blends with the natural landscape so well that it is difficult to tell where the hand of man and the forces of nature separate.

These are works created by some of the most famous and widely recognized sculptors in the world, and the permanent home of the Alexander Calder collection. The Orange and black steel works of this most notable of American sculptors is spread out over “Calder Hillside”, free-forms standing out in stark contrast to the adjacent David Smith work venerating that artist’s vision of womanhood. I am drawn however to Alfred Hrdlicka’s “Golgatha”, a willowy shadowed vision of the mysteries of womanhood that somehow always reminds me of the women I have known or would like to have known. I guess it’s a guy thing.

Isamu Noguchi’s “Momo Taro” does not appear so much a work of art as a place to stop and rest, its marble pieces inviting visitors to just sit and rest a while. Somehow, with this piece, everyone seems to break the rule against touching or playing on the sculptures, probably because it seem so much a part of the natural landscape.

The center is now in the fifth year of a seven year planting schedule that will add fields of grain, alfalfa, buckwheat, oats and wildflowers alongside the pathways that meander through the park. This will complete the blending of earth and sky, the hand of man and nature’s bounty into one whole.

And appearances are always deceiving, assumptions shattered so easily, as if I had not already learned that.

As we came around to the end of the tram ride, I noticed four glass enclosures, each covering what appeared to be industrial machinery. Never one to pass up an opportunity to stick my foot in my mouth, I nudged Paula.

“Hey, that’s neat”, I said. “They’ve even got the water treatment plant on display”. Our friendly driver once again put me straight. “Just ahead of us, ladies and gentlemen, is Magdalena Abakanowicz’ Sarcophogi in Glass Houses”

Well, like they say, I may not know art, but I know what I like. WDJ

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