Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A survey of Sculpture Gardens - what a great idea!

The concept of a sculpture garden has captivated me ever since I first encountered one near Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 1970. Sadly, I have no record of my experience there, nor a conscious memory of what I saw, just that ineffable body memory of joy. The way sculpture can animate a landscape and likewise be animated by its location in nature continues to bring joy to this day. I've had the great good fortune to have visited several within the past couple years. There's a new one opening in Indianapolis this weekend and that news made me reflect on the ones I've seen. So, I thought I'd share just one sample picture from four:

At the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, TX, this Borofsky sculpture has life size figures strolling casually skyward. My favorite piece there, though, couldn't be captured on film. It's one of James Turrell's characteristically zen-like spaces with an aperture in the ceiling. The effect can be surreal or spiritual, depending on one's temperament and mood when sitting inside it.

I recently discovered, almost by accident, the Laumeier Sculpture Park near St. Louis. It is large and contains a wide variety of sculptures. A hilltop is dominated by this monumental sculpture by Alexander Lieberman that is painted steel but evokes ancient classical ruins. (See more pictures on my flickr page.)

My favorite place to see sculpture in the landscape is the Storm King Art Center, which is located about an hour north of New York City in the hills along the Hudson River. (Ironically, I grew up about 20 minutes away from there and never knew about it until after I moved to Wisconsin.) At 500 acres, sheer size gives Storm King an advantage most sculpture gardens can't match. The serpentine stone wall pictured is a site specific piece by Andy Goldsworthy.

Although Milwaukee's Lynden Sculpture Garden, newly opened to the public, is a mere 40 acres, it is a delightful setting and, in my opinion, doesn't take a back seat to anyone for charm, nor for the integrity of the collection and quality of the work. Bringing students there over the years has enabled me to feel privy to what has been kept fairly secret for too long. Happily, everyone can enjoy it now. (See my earlier post about the opening by clicking here.)

These reflections were inspired by the news that the Indianapolis Museum of Art is opening a new sculpure park on Sunday, June 20. It promises to be a different kind of outdoor sculpture experience, without the normal "do not touch" signs to prevent an interactive response to the work. I'm already wondering when I can manage a trip down there to see it. Check it out: 100 acres/Indianapolis Museum of Art.

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