Maiden Voyage: Chapter 2, Grounds for Sculpture

from the Artsology series The Arts Adventurer

After finding my way from Route 1 (see last post) to the entrance of the Grounds for Sculpture, as soon as I had paid my entry fee, I was stopped on the road by crossing peacocks (as seen below). They wander throughout the 42 acre public sculpture park, and are not shy at all when it comes to approaching people looking to take a photograph such as myself.

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peacocks walking the grounds at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton NJ

To give a little more background on the sculpture park, it was conceived by the philanthropist and sculptor J. Seward Johnson, whose own sculptures are interspersed throughout the park. The site opened in 1992 and is located on the former New Jersey State Fairgrounds in Hamilton. They have several buildings which house exhibitions, and then there’s numerous paths that wind through the park, allowing one to walk in between and around the various sculptures. What made this especially interesting is that it seems like there’s numerous surprises, where one may see a gap in between two hedges, and if one slips through the gap, suddenly finds a hidden sculpture.

The collection of nearly 300 sculptures includes notable sculptors such as Red Grooms (seen below left), Marisol, Tom Otterness, George Segal, Kiki Smith, and Anthony Caro, among others, but it’s J. Seward Johnson’s own sculptures that often make the biggest visual splash, in large part because of his unique (and somewhat kitschy) interpretations of famous art historical paintings. Here's one example, below right, where Johnson has made his own 3-D interpretation of Gustave Caillebotte's 1877 masterpiece "Paris Street, Rainy Day." The life-sized sculptural version by Johnson shows the exact same couple with an umbrella overhead, walking down the sidewalk, looking to their left, just like Caillebotte's original painted depiction of a man and woman strolling down a street in Paris. It's like they've been pulled out of this painting set in Paris and dropped here on location in New Jersey!

large scale sculpture by Red Grooms at the Grounds for Sculpture

Gustave Caillebotte Paris Street Rainy Day reimagined as sculpture by J. Seward Johnson

Another famous Impressionist painting recreated as a life-sized sculpture is Claude Monet's Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875, which you can see below. In Johnson's version, Madame Monet and their son Jean are also seen on a small hill covered with flowers, holding an umbrella. Grounds for Sculpture has arranged the walking path so that the viewer looks up at this sculpture from the same vantage point that Claude Monet painted his wife and son - what a great attention to detail for the viewer's experience of this sculpture!

Other painting masterpieces interpreted as sculpture by J. Seward Johnson include Pierre Auguste Renoir's "Luncheon of the Boating Party," from 1880-81 (see our feature on it here).

Woman with a Parasol, Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875, by Claude Monet

large scale sculpture by J. Seward Johnson based on Monet's painting Woman with a Parasol

Are you ready to move on for more? Advance to Chapter 3 here.

Or, if you arrived here on this page first, you can also go back to Chapter 1 here.

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