After finding my way from Route 1 (see last post) to the entrance of the Grounds for Sculpture, as soon as I had paid my entry fee, I was stopped on the road by crossing peacocks (as seen from my car, top left picture below). They wander throughout the 42 acre public sculpture park, and are not really very shy at all when it comes to approaching photographers such as myself.
To give a little more background on the sculpture park, it was conceived by the philanthropist and sculptor J. Seward Johnson, whose own sculptures are interspersed throughout the park. The site opened in 1992 and is located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton. They have several buildings which house exhibitions, and then there’s numerous paths that wind through the park, allowing one to walk in between and around the various sculptures. What made this especially interesting is that it seems like there’s numerous surprises, where one may see a gap in between two hedges, and if one slips through the gap, suddenly finds a hidden sculpture.
The collection of nearly 300 sculptures includes notable sculptors such as Red Grooms, Marisol, Tom Otterness, George Segal, Kiki Smith, and Anthony Caro, among others, but it’s J. Seward Johnson’s own sculptures that often make the biggest visual splash, in large part because of his unique (and somewhat kitschy) interpretations of famous art historical paintings. Here’s one example, below, where Johnson has made his own 3-D interpretation of Edouard Manet’s 1863 masterpiece “Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” (The Picnic). Not only has he spatially arranged the trio in the foreground to match the painting, but he’s even included the 4th figure, the bather in the pond, approximately ten feet behind the trio, just as the painting depicts.
Other painting masterpieces interpreted as sculpture include Pierre Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party,” from 1880-81, and Henri Rousseau’s “The Dream,” from 1910. You can see Seward Johnson’s interpretations of them here. But one of the funniest interpretations of a classic painting belongs to Johnson’s version of Henri Matisse’s “Dance.” What makes it so funny? He’s got a happy-go-lucky guy laying on the ground, smiling up at the naked women dancing around him in a circle. It’s pretty funny, pretty over the top, and something that one has to take in from 360 degrees in order to believe the whole thing.
I could easily show you endless pictures of the various sculptures that I saw, but I’m going to hold back for 3 reasons: one, they seem particularly protective of reproductions of their work, and I want to respect those wishes; two, you can see almost everything there by clicking on the individual artist’s names on this page on their site; and three (which is most important): I want to show you things that one might not otherwise notice, things that aren’t on the guide map … so for that, let’s get on to the next post and chapter 3.