I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a museum person. While I can appreciate the historical and cultural significance of art, there are very few museums that can hold my attention for more than 30 minutes. I’d rather be out and about doing something than simply looking at paintings or sculptures. But this weekend I discovered an art museum that’s perfect for adventure-loving active travelers: Storm King Art Center in New York’s Hudson Valley.
An easy day trip from NYC, Storm King is an expansive sculpture garden that features large-scale sculptures set against a beautiful backdrop of mountains, hills, and woods. With more than 100 sculptures and installations sited across 500 acres, I’d more accurately describe it as a sculpture world vs. a garden!
It seems like I’ve been day tripping to the Hudson Valley every weekend this fall, and with good reason: the scenery out there is stunning all season long. After spending my week squished like a sardine on the subway, battling the crowds of Times Square on my way to work and waiting in line for hours at Whole Foods, an escape to the peaceful riverside towns and foliage-rich mountains of the Hudson Valley is just what the doctor ordered.
Despite these frequent trips, I hadn’t heard about Storm King before. So when I read about what a cool place it was, I knew I needed to put it on the weekend agenda before it got too cold out.
After Camila and I arrived and parked, we began to wander around and explore the sculptures in Storm King’s South Fields. I personally loved the red steel sculptures by Mark Suvero, which really stood out against the natural backdrop and were fun to photograph. The “Mother Peace” sculpture caught my eye with an unexpected peace sign in the middle, which was a symbol of the artist’s opposition to the Vietnam War. Interesting tidbit: “Mother Peace” actually once stood in front of the Alameda County Courthouse in Oakland, California, until officials realized its message and had it removed.
Another attention-grabbing piece at Storm King was the enormous “Three Legged Buddha,” a work inspired by Chinese artist Zhang Huan’s travels in Tibet. Nearly 28 feet tall, the forged copper sculpture depicts a three-legged Buddha whose foot rests on a large human head, almost as if it’s stomping this person into the ground. This behemoth was clearly one of the most popular sculptures, with visitors crowding around to snap photos and pose next to the head. While many of them pretended to pick its nose or climb out of its ear, we simply chose to smile!
The “Three Legged Buddha” is located in a sugar-maple tree grove along with several other works by Huang.
While we did venture into some of the Museum Hill section of Storm King, we didn’t have enough time to explore the entire garden or make it to the other sections, North Woods and Meadows, before the park had to close at 4:30. Damn you, early sunsets!
Since Storm King closes for the season at the end of November, the window of time left to visit this year is pretty small. But I’ll definitely be planning a return trip in 2015 to complete the tour and capture even more interesting photos in a different season.
Usually I don’t quite “get” abstract art, as I just can’t wrap my mind around a random shape or object being something worth talking about. But when the sculptures are placed in the great outdoors, they instantly become much more interesting. Plus it was nice to be roaming around outside, getting some exercise and taking in the scenery instead of wandering around a stuffy museum.
If you’re into art, you’ll definitely want to visit Storm King Art Center. But even if you’re someone who isn’t (like me!), it’s still a fun and easy day trip from NYC. The area also has hiking trails on the nearby Storm King Mountain to the east and Schunnemunk Mountain to the west if you’re looking to spend more time there.
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