July 20, 2006

Afternoon in the Art Park

art park

It's a place where the wild and the pastoral mix, where nature and art get intertwined, where both naturalists and artists gather. An outdoor sculpture park. Not a neat managed garden, but acres and acres of open rural land, with pockets of woods and wetlands -- and ponds built decades ago, each pond evolving into something different than it began. The art park spreads across a hilltop, with panoramic views that look, as my friend Poet Woman says, "the way Tuscany looks in romantic movies." Miles of trails lead visitors to ambitious art installations, art created by hands and weathered by wind and rain.

Poet Woman and I only had an hour to spare on our way to the poetry reading in Little Town by Lake, but an hour in the art park would be an hour well spent. Within minutes, we were wandering along the trails, talking busily and running to check out art installations we could see from a distance. Poet Woman is a naturalist who identified plants and creatures as we walked along; thanks to a degree in science and years of working at a science museum, she knows all kinds of vital things about the natural world.

I am always getting yelled at for touching things in art museums. It’s so hard to resist! So I love art that I am allowed to touch. I like running my hands over sun-warmed metal or weathered china or solid clay. I love sculptures that invite the viewer to enter. As I climbed through lattices or under metal girders or crawled into a nest made of twisted branches, I could hear Poet Woman’s camera clicking, and I knew that my body, my image, had become part of the work.

The sky, which ranged from deep blue in the east to an angry grey in the west as a storm approached, became a changing backdrop to some of the dramatic sculptures. Sunlight kept changing the way each piece looked as late afternoon turned to evening. The welcome wind moved across the landscape, sending ripples through a whole field of timothy. Perhaps the artwork in the park made me more conscious of these changes in colour and light, these nuances of movement, just as the presence of Poet Woman and her scientific explanations made me think more carefully about the ecology of the place.

One art installation looked like a huge clay ear, about the size of my living room. Poet Woman talked about a poetry performance she gave once, standing on the earth ear, reading her poetry to her audience and into the ear. Musicians, dancers, and poets have all done performances here in this park: science teachers bring school children here as well. As we sat on the clay sculpture, talking, she stopped to identify bird calls. A redwing blackbird in the tree next to us kept trilling his call throughout our conversation.

We had the whole park – miles of trails and acres of land – to ourselves, and we soon discovered why. The recent rains had nourished the local population of mosquitoes, who seemed thrilled at our bare legs and arms, our sweaty hair and faces. I am sure that most of Poet Woman’s photos show me slapping at insects. Thank goodness she had no audio equipment with her.

We ran from the lovely little pond, with its calm surface that reflected back our own faces, ran from the cool installations in the deep woods that made me think of grape vine arbors, ran from anything wet and shaded. Upward, we hurried, following a mown trail up a sunny ripening field, climbing to the top of a hill that promised a panoramic view. At the top, we were able to stand still in a strong breeze that kept the insects away, gazing at the woods and meadows below us and the far-off little town on the lake, with the white steeple of the church rising above treetops.

We talked about our plans to return for a whole day, perhaps in the fall after the frost kills off the insect population, bringing our lunches and our journals. We’ll watch the way the seasons change the landscape. Poet Woman will identify flora and fauna. We’ll write, we’ll do reiki, we’ll climb into works of art. We’ll watch the chorophyll disappear from the leaves, disintegrating in the bright sun and cold air, allowing the carotene and anthocyanins to reveal the yellows and reds of autumn.

20 comments:

Scrivener said...

My first thought was cornucopia. But now it looks more like a scorpion.

Are those lights hanging on the sculpture? Or are they the clay knobby thingies (really, that's the official term!) from transformers? Is there a reason the third one from the left isn't on a wire?

Mrs. Coulter said...

I love love love the lighting effects that happen when a far off storm darkens the distant sky, even as the foreground is brightly sunlit. Gorgeous photo.

jo(e) said...

The things that look like transformers are actually cups and saucers -- Snowstorm City china.

Lisa V said...

This is so cool. I would love to see that place.

jo(e) said...

Lisa V: Come visit, and I will take you there ....

cloudscome said...

I love that photo! I clicked on it to show my son a close up and realized you have your photos on Flickr (sorry I am so dull sometimes) and so now I toured all your photos and I love everyone of them. I want to be your friend IRL!

The first thing I would say as your IRL friend is bug spray. If you hate the smell of chemicals find some organic crunchy herbal something.... And watch out for the posion ivy. You know you are sensitive girlfriend!

Yankee T said...

cornucopia/ferris wheel! Most excellent! I would totally love to go there in the fall.

Great photo. You have a rich, full life.

Chip said...

wow, I absolutely love the contrast between the farmland and the sculpture. wild.

jo(e) said...

Cloudscome: Yeah, I can't stand the smell of bug spray. Sometimes visitors to our camp wear it, and the worst part is that it seems to be ineffective -- they always get bitten anyhow. Usually I just put long clothes on at dusk. I don't really mind getting bitten -- it's the annoyance of them buzzing around me.

I would love to meet you in real life.

seeker said...

Great job at capturing the richness of the colors in the photo.

bridgett said...

This place is a not so long drive from our house. My family and I go there at least twice a year to listen, think, and enjoy. Your photos make me want to drop everything and go there tomorrow. Maybe I will.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I just love the way you remember our times together!! We sure had fun! But Bridgett, don't forget the mosquitoes. Stick to the hill tops.

I love your writing, jo(e) and that's a cool photo!!! Such delightfully dark sky--we were worried we'd get caught in the rain, not for our overheated selves, but for our cameras.

listmaker said...

What a great photo. I want to go there.

missymusing said...

Reminds me of the sculpture that the aunt in the movie Twister made, the spiraly one. Love the dark cloud.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Well. The sculpture looked to me like a scorpion, tail curled backward over its head. See: http://www.inmagine.com/view_image.php?filename=itf139065&sid=

This sounds like such a lovely place. I have heard of sculpture *gardens* but not big open spaces like this -- what a fantastic, fantastic idea.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Oh I see that scrivener thought scorpion too. hi scrivener!

luolin said...

If you like to touch things in museums, check out the exhibits at Southeby's in NYC. As my in-law in NY said, they can't tell by looking if you are rich enough to be a potential bidder.

east village idiot said...

Yet another inspiring post. I LOVE sculpture gardens - large forms you can touch and clime into. Claes Oldenberg has some beautiful pieces at the amazing sculpture garden at Pepsico in Purchase NY. Although the sculptures are scattered on a large, well manicured area of land - it is still a corporate park - a far cry from trails and rolling hills.

Anonymous said...

Where is this place? What is the location ?

jo(e) said...

It's the Stone Quarry Art Park in Cazenovia, New York. You can google it for directions.