Alexander Calder: "Black Flag" 1974, Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, New York
Call me a city-girl. When I hit the pavement in Paris, Chicago, Tokyo or Houston, art is always my first priority. Museums and galleries are invigorating, but encounters with public art often account for my most memorable urban moments. As much as I'm stopped in my tracks by massive metal sculptures with skyscraper backdrops, the Storm King Art Center in Mountainville tops my list when it comes to monumental art.
Driving along the tree-lined entry past Alexander Calder's 50-foot tall stabile called The Arch; I enter an Alice in Wonderland adventure in perspective and imagination. Depending on where I perch in these 500-acres of Hudson Valley highlands, I feel like a monarch or a mummy, a giant or a microbe. Occasionally, I'm even my 5'6" self.
That's my size when I investigate the changing exhibits in the French chateaux look alike, the Center's mansion that anchors a landscape of forests and meadows. I stretch or shrink as I step outside.
Revisiting the great works out-of-doors keeps me coming back. In sunshine or rain, I'm not exactly eye-to-eye with David Smith's Becca, Personage of May or Volton XX, but since these welded steel and bronze figures were created when I was a school girl, we have a demographic connection. Or I greet the bronze bulk of Henry Moore's smooth Reclining Connected Forms. Moore's solidity grounds me; while Smith's spare abstractions strike me as mirthful or morose. A black steel fortress, Louise Nevelson's City On the High Mountain makes me wonder about relationships. Then I ask myself if my views are skewed by the interaction of its dark forms or an article I read about her parenting.
After circling past the more than two dozen works on this hilltop, I widen my gaze and survey a chronicle of monumental abstract sculpture for the last fifty years -- I pretend it's my mythical kingdom. Easy to spot, Mark di Suvero's Pyramidian is my first focus. At this angle the steel I-beams look like an enormous erector set, but when I walk down the stone stairway, cross South Field, then stand underneath, I channel my inner infant. More than ten times taller and wider than me, this nod to ancient architecture is a piece that rules the waving grasses with strength and dignity.
Whether I climb on the hop-on, hop-off tram or set out on foot, the North Woods are an array of international artists and even includes a reproduction of an iconic Easter Island face.
Riding on the open air tram past Andrew Goldworthy's Storm King Wall, the field stones look alike as I quickly pass. Details appear when I climb off and walk beside the two-foot plus high compilation of boulders. Though it's a mere six-foot long, the site specific installation seems longer as I examine it minutely.
Wavefield is most likely to transport me. Here Maya Lin, best known for Washington, D.C.'s Vietnam Veterans Memorial -- The Wall, has sculpted the land. The four-acre earthwork becomes a land-locked dream ocean where seven, 300-foot long rows of dirt emulate liquid motion. On my last visit, I could only peer down so no faux surfing.
Monumental sculptures stir many a flights of fancy. I wonder where I'll find myself next time I explore Storm King?
Born a few blocks from the Hudson River, Barbara Wysocki writes about travel, the arts, children's literature and spirituality for
Yankee, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, Art & Antiques and Art New England.