The Hudson Valley has a special kind of light and soaring nature, with its elevations and valleys illuminated with sun, starlight, and storm. At the Storm King Art Center with its installations of giant metal sculptures that seem alien on the meadows, or land art that warps the earth, the most interesting aspect is perhaps how this nature is made unnatural while still celebrating the beauty of the terrain.
This Labor Day I took the train to the sculpture park that spreads over 500 acres with winding lawns, sprouting forests, and hidden corners of water and green. It’s a beautiful place to wander, but like the sculptures around it much of it was formed. Landscape architect William Rutherford sculpted the land back in the 1950s with as concentrated a hand as the art that sits upon it, setting up vistas where you would suddenly encounter a monolithic metal giant in the distance or chance upon a small work blending into the trees at the edge of your path.
It’s a great place to get lost, and while I found the land art by Maya Lin that had beautiful waves of earth formed up looking towards a farmhouse by the surrounding hills, or Andy Goldsworthy’s wall of rocks that wound from a collapsed pile into an over 2,000-foot snaking structure to be wonderful to explore, it was perhaps this structured landscape that is still the best part about Storm King. Parts of it reminded me of images of the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Scotland that is about using land to represent ideas of physics or mathematics, except here it’s about the interaction with art and nature at once.
But it is after all a destination for the sculpture, as beautiful as it is to see the changing light of the day and seasons. Below are some photographs of some of the over a hundred sculptures that rotate through the park or are there permanently. There is currently an exhibition of sculptures by Thomas Houseago and another exhibition by David Brooks with a tractor in the hillside (although that one eluded me), along with ongoing installations of Mark di Suvero’s geometric forms that seem like ominous warnings you might find bent out of sticks in a forest, or Richard Serra’s metal walls that emerge out of hills as something alien within the nature to remind you of the human hand behind it. The art is dominated by work from the 1970s and 80s, and some of it wouldn’t be out of place or offensive in an office park, but overall it’s a great escape to get lost in, or just find a place to sit and think of the earth that moved to get you that entrancing view of the art against the valley.
Storm King Art Center is located in New Windsor, in the Hudson Valley (1 Museum Road New Windsor, New York). Thomas Houseago: As I Went Out One Morning continues through November 11 and David Brooks: A Proverbial Machine in the Garden through December 1.
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