Art Trails
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sculpture of a ballerina in Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.

Soft voluptuous curves or hard jagged edges provoke different images and emotions. Unfortunately, as recent attacks of vandalism in Italian museums have shown, not everyone touches and feels for the love of art or to understand it. But there are some sculptures that invite you in, encourage you to explore what the artist is saying and can improve the understanding of art, especially for children. And this is the strength of Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.


sculpture of people in line at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.

The sculptures entice you to explore them, go round a corner to see

what the line is for or sit with the forms to get the total experience.



Back in 1984 local New Jersey sculptor Seward Johnson had an idea to build a sculpture park that would  break down the barriers of elitism and the public's approach to art, and to encourage the mix of art with nature. The project is built on the former New Jersey show grounds, where they have also saved some historic buildings which now house restaurants, exhibition space etc. A visit to the park is definitely an experience. The park opened to the public in 1992.


sculpture of larger than life student and teacher at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.

Some of the sculptures are monumental in size.


And there has been a lively discussion since then. There are the detractors whose discussion about the park can be very highbrow or some who just think it's kitsch. There is a train of thought that it is not very inspiring for an artist to just recreate the works of another artist. I went through a whole gamut of emotions when I first visited. I went from thinking, "Oh! that is just wonderful!" to "Good grief, will you look at that!" a few minutes later as I turned another corner.


But to be honest it was fascinating and I do believe it is an excellent introduction to art for a child. Obviously this is not an original thought, there were plenty of the young at heart there having a rewarding time learning and having fun. They not only see the art based on a master piece. There are notices explaining the art and everyone can venture right in to the scene and "live" the art.



sculpture of plein air painter wtht spectator looking over her shoulder at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.
It is almost impossible not to join him looking over the plein air painter's shoulder.


When you wander down a path and come upon a full scale reproduction of Edouard Manet's "Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe" hidden away in a shady nook, it is quite breath taking. And I was very pleased to see they have not shied away from nudity. I felt when I saw the large figures reclining on the picnic blanket how perfect the setting was and how absolutely normal.


sculpture of Edouard Manet's Picnic Scene at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.
Edouard Manet's picnic scene set in the trees with an example of the note of explanation.


Rounding another corner I saw two youngsters having a bit of a tug of war argument over something. It takes a second to realize they are sculptures, not actual living breathing humans. And this is how a visit to the grounds goes, around each corner is an intriguing discovery. It also is a great test of your art knowledge. You know immediately what the scene is, or when you saw the original during a visit to the Louvre. But can you always remember the title or the artist? Was it Monet or Degas perhaps? It's a fun brain teaser.


sculpture of two teenaged girls arguring at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.
Realism can be quite astonishing in some of the forms.


Not all the sculptures are based on old masterpieces.  Modern sculptor's work  is dotted about and some of it is just beautiful and very moving. In the entrance hall to the grounds is a very  poignant sculpture of the after math of the Twin Towers collapse in an emotional and starkly beautiful  tribute to 9/11.


sculpture oftribute to 9/11 at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.

The very moving tribute to 9/11 in the entrance hall.


There is also humor. If you can't find the fun in the form of Mona Lisa behind the scenes, you might just be having a bad and grumpy day. I thoroughly enjoyed a good old giggle at some the fun. And why not? Got you interested? Good, now go and see what I mean about dear Mona behind the scenes.


sketch  of buildings at  Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.
My sketch of a small portion of one of the restored historic buildings
and a section of one of the water sculptures..


We bought a picnic lunch at the cafeteria and sat on one of the many benches enjoying a lovely view of the lake and one of the restored historic buildings. I sketched and contemplated what it all meant as an experience. I decided I would need to visit it again in a different season and see more of the sections I missed. It is a huge park and cannot be viewed in one day. I might just have to borrow a friend's children to experience it through their eyes. I think that would be just fascinating.

reflection in pond at Grounds for Sculpture near Trenton, N.J.
We sat on a bench hidden away with a lovely view and enjoyed reflections of the building in the pond








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