Storm King

Although it sounds like some kind of supervillain or maybe a kind of hurricane-recovery clean-up service, Storm King is actually a very high profile outdoor sculpture museum featuring some significant works from the 40s-90s.

Beau and I dropped in during our recent trip to NY, and we had the good fortune to visit with his art history teacher, who filled in a lot of context about the different works and artists we saw.

The museum, which I think is about 500 acres, featured this long, snakey stone wall, hand-built, which wound around trees, dove into a small pond, and emerged from the other side to climb a hill and run right up to the edge of the highway at the museum’s edge. The craftsmanship was remarkable, but so was the wall’s meditation on shape, space, and scale.

I was pretty excited to encounter a Roy Lichtenstein piece in the museum. I love pop art, especially pop art inspired by cartoons and comics, and this piece, called “Mermaid,” uses one of Lichtenstein’s core iconographies and places it in a context I’d never encountered before. Although it’s “just a canoe,” it evokes images of ships with sculpted prows.

The most interesting installations were from Maya Lin, who, in her early twenties, became famous when her MIT thesis project, rejected by her faculty, became the accepted design for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC. At the time, Lin suffered the vitriol associated with the memorial’s construction, including the ridiculous criticism that such a monument should not have been designed by an Asian American. If you’ve ever visited the memorial, you know it is among the most powerful monuments in the nation’s capital for its stark simplicity and meditative use of space.

“Wavefield,” one of her projects at Storm King, is a large plain of sculpted dunes growing over now with grass and wildflowers. Throughout the year, the installation looks different, but from high vantage points it does replicate the rhythm and scale of waves (the “waves” crest at about 10′ high at their highest point and about 6′ at their lowest). Currently, you can walk through the valleys between crests, but due to the soil’s fragility, guests are asked not to walk along the tops of the dunes until they’ve had a chance to become more firmly rooted with flora. It’s an interesting piece–one I found myself thinking about over the entire weekend.

Lin had a few really spectacular installations in Storm King’s only gallery building, including a scaled-down version of a another wave-related project that used shorn 2′ x 4’s to make wave shapes on a gallery floor. There was also a plaster model of an iceberg and a map of the Hudson River constructed onto a blank wall using lines and groups of pins. Upstairs, I saw this, which I loved:

A series of glass “drops,” which seem to be holding their shape at the preicse moment of impact before the meniscus explodes and the water flattens.

There were many significant modern pieces there, including “Black Flag”–my favorite in the museum (Beau has the photo of me under it) and a remarkable vertically-cantilevered piece that I didn’t realize was held off the ground until we drove by it (too late to get a snapshot!). It’s probably the best sculpture garden I’ve been to, although I will always love Klaes Oldenberg’s Cherry-and-spoon fountain in the Walker Arts Center Sculpture Garden in Minneapolis.

For those keeping track of such factoids:
Total miles driven so far in August: 2,000.
Total miles driven in my entire first year of living in DC: 6,000.

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