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.
The sculptures entice you to explore them, go round a corner to
what the line is for or sit with the forms to get the total
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 a small portion of one of the restored
and a section of one of the water
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.
sat on a bench hidden away with a lovely view and
enjoyed reflections of the building in the pond