Where the Hills Are Alive with Art
By Jana Seitz
Pullquote: The land itself is a medium creating ever-changing art out of the earth.
I have met the storm king, and you shouldn’t mess with him. He guards the gates of Storm King Art Center like the Sphinx from his lawn chair at the bicycle rental kiosk. If you incorrectly answer his riddle for admission, your fate is sealed: expulsion or death. I mercifully passed his test by sacrificing the ladies I brought with me and was thus spared. He could only hurl empty words in my direction as I entered his kingdom.
Okay, maybe he was just a grouchy man who woke up on the wrong side of bed and we, his first customers of the morning. But the majestic Storm King Art Center plays on one’s mind in such a fashion. It’s bigger than life and sets a stage for the impossible becoming possible. There’s nothing quite like meandering beneath gigantic sculptures to make you feel as significant as an ant. I wouldn’t have been at all surprised if King Kong came swinging down the maple tree alley or a fire-breathing dragon flew over the surrounding hills at us. It’s a village of Big Art, reminding you just how small you are in the scheme of things, a paradoxically soothing realization.
Frederick Remington wrote, <“Big art is a process of elimination. Cut down and out. Do your hardest work outside the picture, and let your audience take away something to think about – to imagine.”> Storm King is the very incarnation of these words.
Founded in 1960 by Ralph Ogden and Peter Stern, Storm King is 500 acres of woods, fields, lawns, wetlands, and water with sculptures scattered throughout, like a playground for the gods. Rolling vistas intertwine with open expanses and wooded retreats, lending an element of surprise, a treasure hunt for art. There’s a swing set and play scape by Alexander Calder, some kick balls and a croquet set by Henry Moore, a bunch of cool Legos by David Smith, and huge seesaws, playhouses, and slides by an array of artists. Giant toys abound.
Of course there’s loads of factual information in the brochure or on the guided tours and fabulous programs, but that’s not my thing. I find their map difficult to follow. I’ve absorbed it and discarded it — prepare and improvise. I prefer their “Field Guide For Young Explorers” if you’re lucky enough to find one tossed aside by a bored kindergartner.
I just like to lose myself in the beauty of this place for a few hours on a regular basis, and always during Mini Adventure time (weekdays from drop off until pickup) where I have it more or less to myself. It’s a new discovery each season, whether dipped in fall, dusted in snow, or dotted with wildflowers. The land itself is a medium creating ever-changing art out of the earth. It’s only an hour’s drive from Rye, but worlds apart.
I naturally gravitate toward the road less travelled, so Moodna Creek Trail is my favorite, a wooded path along the creek skirting the eastern and southern edges of the property. The Café (open 11-4:30) makes a fine sandwich to stick in your backpack to eat along the way, and a fine cuppa Joe for the quick drive home. I regularly break the “no food allowed outside the designated picnic areas” rule, but I leave no trace behind for fear of The Sphinx and his minions. Just keep moving and you’ll be fine.
I enjoy popping into the Museum Building to see what’s happening and to buy yet another Rainbow Maker in the Museum Store (best gift shop ever). When time allows I like to explore the nearby village of Cornwall-on-Hudson, ripe with history. Next trip up I intend to check out the Black Rock Forest and Storm King State Park. There’s just never enough time to squeeze it all in.
So riddle me this, Mr. Storm King: What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?
Oedipus: “Man.” Crawling in childhood, walking mid-life, and using a cane in old age. My answer: “Man on a Mini Adventure.” Four car tires in the morning, two bicycle wheels at noon and 3 p.m. pickup, completely satiated with perspective in check.
Storm King Art Center
1 Museum Road, New Windsor
Bikers: Rye moms Sharon Mequet, Kerri Olson, Renate Desai, Kristin Siano, Lisa Greenspan, and Robin Azer enjoying the art-filled air at Storm King.
Alexander Calder, <The Arch>
Alexander Liberman, <Adonai>
Menashe Kadishman, <Suspended>
Alyson Shotz, <Mirror Fence>