As soon as I passed through the ticket gate at the entrance of the Storm King Art Center and saw Alexander Calder’s “The Arch” sitting proudly in an expanse of field, I thought “Yes! This is how these pieces should be seen!” The Storm King Art Center sits on over 500 acres of land in the Hudson Valley area of New York. It offers rolling hills, open fields, creeks and ponds as a back drop to an impressive collection of monumental modern sculpture. “The Arch” is a fifty-six foot tall sculpture, and though made of steel, has a light dancer like quality to it. The height and mass of most sculptures at Storm King would over power any interior space, if they could fit in an interior that is. Mark Di Suvero, who has at least seven pieces at Storm King, also has sculptures set in urban areas and they look very much at home. But Storm King is what I imagine it is like to see lions in their natural habitat, striding proudly, unrestrained by walls or artificial backgrounds. It made for a somewhat surreal landscape, as if some really cool alien race zapped down these mysterious structures one night as a form of peaceful communication. At least that’s what the sci-fi geek in me likes to imagine.
It was a sunny day in the upper 90’s on the day of my visit, so my friends and I had the wise idea to take the tram ride around the park to get an overview first. It was a leisurely 40 minute tour allowing us to take in most of the 131 sculptures, albeit from a distance. Each piece has its own distinct personality. Some were made site specific and others were more an extension of the artists statement or vision. Had the heat not been so unusually oppressive, I would have loved to walk the entire place, but for this trip I settled for just the South Fields of the property. The south fields are home to two of the main reasons I wanted to visit Storm King, Andy Goldsworthy’s “Storm King Wall” and Maya Lin’s “Storm King Wavefeild.”
I use to flip through the various books on Andy Goldsworthy’s work and admire the beautiful sculptures he would make from natural materials, but I definitely did not have a full understanding of the labor and spirit that were involved in these works until I watched the 2001 documentary film, “Rivers and Tides.” Unfortunately for me, most of his sculptures are temporary, washed away by the tide, or weathered away by the elements, which is why “Rivers and Tides” did something in telling his story that still photos cannot. You could see the sunrise start to illuminate an ice sculpture he had been making in the dark, or the tides pick up a sculpture of driftwood and carry it out to sea. After watching that I wanted desperately to visit any Goldsworthy sculpture I could. Check out Part II to see photos of the wall and Wavefeild!