When the subject of Grounds For Sculpture – the 42-acre public sculpture garden in Hamilton – arises, people generally respond in one of three ways: they admit that they are unfamiliar with the place, which opens the door for me to tell them about one of my favorite spots; they say have heard about it and want to visit someday, which allows me to give a gentle nudge in that direction; or they have already been to GFS, and what follows then is usually a lively and enthusiastic conversation. But I’ve found that even the most seasoned GFS visitor may be unaware of the veritable bounty of exhibitions, events and activities happening there.
“Heads in Wood and Plaster,” an exhibit by Roosevelt NJ sculptor Jonathan Shahn, can be viewed at the Domestic Arts Building through September 22. An artist who has long been fascinated with the human form, Shahn uses wood and plaster in this exhibit to create representations of the human head. “This is a wonderful example of art that is emotive and evocative,” Green-Rifkin said, “while also using a classical and timeless form.”
Pepón Osorio’s “Where the Me Becomes We” is on view in the same gallery space. Osorio is of Puerto Rican descent and his art cleverly combines Hispanic elements such as vivid decoration and embellishment with his desire to make substantive statements. “His work is wonderful and playful fun, but also has a deeper message. The longer you look at his pieces,” she says, “the more they reveal.”
In the Museum Building Main Gallery, an installation by artist Jason Peters, “Less Than <> More Than,” is on view through October 6. This is a site-specific work, which means that the artist’s vision needs to be fluid enough to accommodate modifications as the creative process goes along. And while the materials that comprise this large-scale piece – a jumble of recycled metal chair frames and lighting – are hardly delicate, the overall environment is almost ethereal. “It is all about the unseen,” Green-Rifkin comments.
Also in the Museum Building is Jo Yarrington’s “The Leap,” a series of transparencies that cover the 100+ windows in the gallery. Created from multiple layering of historic and other photographs, the installation offers a different eye through which to see the landscape outside. And when sunlight shines through, the images make projections on the interior walls. “This installation is constantly changing,” says Green-Rifkin, “It combines past with present, tangible with intangible, calm with motion.”
New this summer is the Green Light Series, with an exhibition schedule that will change at least four times a year and will highlight the work of emerging artists. Kicking off this series is artist Katie Murken, whose works are fashioned from ordinary, everyday items. For this exhibition, Murken presents huge columns formed from phone books that have been colored with pigment dye. Her show opened in late July and will be on view through October 6.
Green-Rifkin points out that summer is not just a great time to see art at GFS, it’s also a fabulous food season. One of the most popular events is Dinner and a Stroll, featuring park admission, a prix fixe 3-course meal, and complimentary ice cream at the gorgeous gazebo for one price. you can dine and stroll each Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with dinner reservations made between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. through August. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Rat’s Restaurant (609-584-7800).
The Friday Night Courtyard Concerts feature a variety of talented up-and-coming musical artists, and the option of gazebo dining before the show. Hiroya Tsukamoto, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer will appear on August 9, and Jah Guide, a Trenton-based reggae group, will be performing on August 23. Concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and tickets can be ordered in advance.
Another special happening at GFS is the Poets Invitational on August 25. “Writers and musicians are invited to read and perform, and we extend the same open invitation for the public to come listen. And–weather permitting–it takes place out in the park,” Green-Rifkin said. “It’s a celebration of the spoken word.”
Monday Night Monologues on September 20 at 8 p.m. is one more unique cultural event. Presented by a troupe of professional actors, the evening offers a rare glimpse into the process of developing a monologue. “You’ll see what an actor goes through,” Green-Rifkin says, “with character portraits and storytelling and more.”
And the annual NJ Storytelling Festival from noon until 6 p.m. on September 22 is a family-friendly celebration that takes place on multiple stages throughout the park and features a blend of music, poetry, and humor. Picnic lunches will be available at the Peacock Café and can be ordered in advance by calling 609-586-0616 x111.
A highlight of the year at Grounds for Sculpture is the Epicurean Palette, on Sunday, September 29, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. “This is our only fundraising event,” Green-Rifkin says, “with a single ticket price for everything that is going on.”
“There are 25 or so restaurants participating, as well as wine, beer and spirits vendors. So we get wonderful food and drink pairings,” she adds. “It really is the premier food and wine event of the region.”
And, as we closed our conversation, Green-Rifkin let me in on something very special that will be coming to Grounds For Sculpture in May 2014.
“We will have the largest, most historically significant exhibition of (GFS founder) Seward Johnson,” she told me, “It will be a retrospective of Johnson’s life’s work.”
“Keep it on your radar.”
Editor’s Note: There is much going on at Grounds For Sculpture –we couldn’t fit it all in this piece! Be sure to check out our calendar for more of their events–http://bit.ly/CV_GFS-Cal–and how to get fantastic discounts on these and other events with your Jersey Arts Member card!