Saturday, August 26, 2006


Grounds for Sculpture

'Were You Invited?', by J. Seward Johnson, at the Grounds for SculptureThe Grounds for Sculpture, near Trenton, NJ, has to be the best-kept secret on the east coast. I heard about it a few years ago from a friend in California (yes, that's right), and everyone around here I've told about it had never heard of it before either. And what a pity that is: it's a wonderful place!

Founded by artist J. Seward Johnson, the sculpture park opened in 1992. It now comprises 35 acres and some 170 works of modern sculpture. The styles vary from abstract to minimalism to realism. There's something for everyone there, and the grounds are marvellously landscaped. Around every corner, amid every copse, behind every bush is something to be discovered. As one drives to the park, sculptures line the roads, leading the way and heralding the pleasures inside the gates. Several of Johnson's own works are there, of course; his theme is sculpted realizations of classic impressionist paintings. Hidden behind some bushes is his version of Manet's Le déjeuner sur l'herbes, and the Where's-Waldo–esque photo to the upper right (click to enlarge and find the bit that's out of place) was taken in his 3-D rendition of Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party.

The web site will lead you through the park's permanent collection, and if that's not enough to entice you to visit, take my word for the delightfulness of the setting — it's a great way to spend a temperate, sunny day (though I've been there in the rain too, and, you know, that's also nice). There's also a nice restaurant in the park, alongside a pond, with a garden and a view of their re-creation of Monet's Le pont japonais à Giverny — and with a decent selection of beers and wines.

If you're somewhere in the northeast, this place is worth a special trip. I've been there a few times, and I'd probably be there weekly if it were closer to me. With a two-hour drive to get there, I only go once or twice a year.

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