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photo by Denise Mattia

The Fields Sculpture Park: The Gathering Place for Art and Artists

Since the inception of Art Omi in 1998, The Fields Sculpture Park has provided visitors with a year-round opportunity to experience the impact of important international contemporary sculpture. Currently, more than 60 sculptures, ranging in size from miniature to monumental, are strategically placed on 300 acres of verdant land, which is divided into seven sites (Entrance, Little Field, Back Woods, Lower Wheat Field, The Woods, Wheat Field and Clover Meadow) and two areas containing special exhibitions.

Over the last 60 years, visual artists have been able to choose from a growing array of technologies and materials to interpret their ideas. Experimenting with plastics, polymers and video, and using metal, stone and wood as well as found objects and even sound in non-traditional styles, they rely on their knowledge of art history and an intuitive understanding of universal dynamics to create works that mirror a society in the midst of a violent and troubled age.

In recent times the corner café‚ where artists once met to exchange ideas is all but extinct. That establishment has been replaced virtually on the Internet. Galleries, museums and web pages make artists work available to the public, and art expositions, which take place in major international cities, feature their work. Still, for many artists who work in three dimensions, a two-dimensional screen can reduce the impact of a sculpture to that of a cartoon. Additionally, gallery and museum venues run exhibitions for a short period of time, and don t always include emerging artists.

Art Omi International Arts Center in Columbia County's Omi, New York is a non-profit organization devoted to furthering communication among writers, musicians and visual artists through working residencies. Under the guidance of founder and principal benefactor, Francis Greenburger, President and CEO of Time Equities, Inc., a real estate investment, development and property management firm, the goal of Art Omi is to bring the arts to the public. Additionally, the organization serves to introduce artists to gallery directors, publishers, critics, agents, curators and collectors, who help them cultivate valuable career and networking opportunities.

Here are some of the pieces you can experience.

Photo by Denise Mattia

Entrance

Foon Sham's Vases On The Field examines the relative merits of hand-crafted original objects. In this series of sculptures, each block of wood has been carved and joined by the artist into a modern rendition of classical vases, which are placed at different angles to each other and to the earth upon which they rest. Although they resemble a graveyard of giant vessels unearthed from an excavation, their message is quietly optimistic. They appear as a reminder of our link to and dependence on the past. Additionally, Sham explains, "they are part of an ordered universe in which human reason provides some control of destiny."

Other sculptures in the Entrance area are by Don Osborn, Ole Videbaek, Tadashi Hashimoto, Jon Isherwood, Dewitt Godfrey, Lewis deSoto, John Ruppert, Robert Grosvenor and Bill and Mary Buchen.

Photo by Denise Mattia

Little Field

At first glance, Joyce Burstein's enigmatic work involves a more direct approach to the past. In her interactive work, The Epitaph Project, she uses a tombstone, carved from slate and finished as a chalkboard. A box of chalk is placed in front of the stone to invite viewers to compose an epitaph. Whether the penned contribution is serious or humorous, viewers are brought face-to-face with the question of their own mortality. Viewing this piece as a darkly poetic sculpture, one might see it as the entrapment of the soul beneath the stone. A more optimistic interpretation might be that if the stone is cleaned either by rain or by human intervention, a blank, smooth space becomes available for new ideas to arise.

Other works in the Little Field are by Steven Brower, Peter Stempel, Mathew McCaslin (sound), Joanna Pizybyla, Stefanie Nagorka, Robert Lobe, Gary Quinonez and Antoni Milkowski.

Back Woods

Rather than produce art that is a continual reaction to the work of the past, Jeff Talman creates sonic installation works that involve no allusion or illustration. This work extends the boundaries of what we consider art. The only reference of his Stream Space Lacing in the Fields is the faint sound of wind and water. The artist explains that while living in Europe he became intrigued by the different sounds in cathedrals, castles and museums, and that he "experienced soundspace as an event that approaches the metaphysical." Talman states further, " . . . my installations work with the space's inherent sounds in relation to the architecture. The fugitive moment is source to sonic minutiae that we ignore and relegate to passing time. These moments . . . are the negative space of memory." By returning the sound of inconsequential moments to their place of origin, Talman creates a universal language, accessible to all through technology.

Photo by Denise Mattia There are twice as many works located in the Back Woods as there are in other sites, so mention of an additional sculpture seems necessary, especially since the pink-and-blue Hydrocal heads of wailing babies suspended from trees by chains entail imagery that suggests sound. Upon finding these larger-than-life plastic heads in the quiet woods, the viewer can almost hear the infants' screams as the heads rotate in space. The result of Nina Levy's Balls With Chain is an eerily disturbing reminder of our mutual dependence and our want of protection and comfort as well. Works by Jackie Ferrara, Erin O'Keefe, Tim Scott, Ronald Gonzalez, Lillian Ball, Jed Cleary, Alena Ort, Grace Knowlton, Donald Lipski, Dina Recanati, William Anastasi, Alexander Liberman and Stanley Boxer are also featured in the Back Woods.

Lower Wheat Field

Using material from the natural and manmade world, Hyungsub Shin has constructed a site-specific installation that explores contemporary attitudes to science and the environment. Liberated from the restriction of a gallery space, he creates Electree, a fictional and hybridized situation in which the elements associated with electricity wires and yellow and red wire caps are juxtaposed with natural elements including grass, roots, trees and a stream. Walking through the woods and over a little bridge, we come upon clusters of color and nearly mistake the electrical parts for flowers. Shin blurs the boundaries between authentic and fake, representation and parody.

Other sculptures found in the Lower Wheat Field are by Grace Knowlton, DeWitt Godfrey and William Tucker.

Photo by Denise Mattia

One-Person Exhibition

In an introduction to a catalogue of an exhibition of works by Tom Gottsleben, Dede Young writes: Frustrated by the limitations of painting, in 1989 he [the artist] placed three small stones together to create a sculpture. Aptly named In the Balance, this arrangement of stones took the form of a dynamic T shape. It combined the solidity of rock with the spontaneity of a calligraphic brush mark. In the Sculpture Park, his one-person exhibition titled, Tom Gottsleben Living Stone, eight works are comprised of stones that are slipped along a complex armature to create distinct curvilinear structures. The solid elements are delicately balanced and appear to interact with the space around them, in addition to changing shape as the viewer repositions himself. For Gottsleben, who studied at a yoga ashram for six years, stone is a living material whose vital force can be revealed through art and architecture. Merging the substantiality and pliancy of material, while metamorphosing their completed shapes and their relationship to the environment, the artist suggests that the Eastern philosophy of yin and yang are complements rather than opponents.

The Woods

photo by Denise Mattia Mary Ann Unger (1945 - 1999) was an artist and curator whose work spanned several genres, although she was best known for her sculptures. The supple curves and rich patina of her sensuous work, Untitled (Misericordia) evoke powerful, dramatic imagery. Four dynamic forms bulge outward and, as though possessing a spiritual force all their own, almost melt into one another at the apex. The viewer is drawn into the center of the sculpture and feels instantly enveloped, yet there is nothing ominous about being within. We are immediately aware of the possibility that the balance and harmony here could withstand the chaos of modern life.

Also installed in the Woods are sculptures by Lisa Mordhorst, Margaret Evangeline, Charles Ginnever, James Croak, Jene Highstein, Tony Rosenthal and Dan Devine.

Wheat Field

Photo by Denise Mattia Dennis Oppenheim has made conceptual art, performance art, earthworks and mechanical pieces over a 30-year period. As one critic pointed out, "his art has always been zany and eclectic, defying categorization and easy explanation." Oppenheim's sculpture, The Marriage Tree, consists of identical molded plastic male and female figures, which, although stacked on top of each other, upside down or protruding from a central female figure, epitomize propriety (the males are in tuxedos, the females are in long wedding dresses). Two of the molds, one male and one female, are red, while the other molds of various sizes are white or pink. This unsettling sculpture is open to a number of interpretations. Perhaps the artist is poking fun at the institution of marriage, or perhaps he perceives the world to be full of plastic figures waiting to be brought into being. On the other hand, there is a deeper and sexual connotation to the sculpture, which suggests that what springs forth from the core of the central figures are duplications and aberrations.

Works by John Cross, Robert Perless, Beverly Pepper, Dove Bradshow, Charles Ginnever and Bill Wilson can also be found at this site.

Clover Meadow

In The Gigant, Son of Gigant, artist Magdalena Abakanowicz fuses human and mechanical elements into anthropomorphic humanoids, an approach that is partly derived from Surrealism. By creating two nearly identical waist-to-feet figures that are joined to the center of axles on wheels, the artist establishes a man-machine relationship that at first glance appears powerful and superhuman. Yet, in projecting life into these semipersonal inanimate sculptures, we see that they are also infused with a vulnerability and impermanence. Both Gigant and Son of Gigant would topple from their perches if outside forces were to set their wheels in motion.

The entire Fields Sculpture Park can be seen within an hour if walking at a slow to moderate pace. It may take more than one visit, however, to appreciate fully how the sculptors have perceived the changing role of society, science and technology and, in understanding the core of facts and data surrounding us, have interpreted in a very personal way what may be happening to humankind.

Tours and Public Programs: Free guided tours are available, with reservations necessary for groups of six or more. In addition, summer concerts, public readings, exhibitions and other special events are held throughout the year.

For more information regarding tour groups for children or adult groups of six or more, call 518.392.2181 or write to Art Omi at: 59 Letter S Road, Ghent, New York 12075


Denise Mattia is a freelance photojournalist living in New York City, and travels from concrete to coral. She is the recipient of two degrees in Theatre and Art and a grant for her work in reef conservation. Her worldwide travel features and photographs (topside and underwater) appear in national and international publications. Denise is also the Arts Contributor for OffbeatNewYork.com. You can contact Denise at ArtLives at OffbeatNewYork. Report and photos by Denise Mattia

© 2006