How do places become special? Well, humans seem to like putting Things on the Land.
A visit to The Storm King Arts Center off Route 32 in Mountaindale, NY is an encounter with Things on the Land in a very grand manner. The variety, placement, scaling, materials, the dialogues with and monologues at nature all make for a brisk, provocative and satisfying afternoon. As a member, I like going often for short visits and not cramming too much into any one visit. My favorite of the moment is Grace Knowlton’s “Spheres” (below).
But this is Orange County, and I bet less than one percent of us 385,000 locals has ever been to Storm King. Does that mean we are out of touch with the powers of Things-on-Land?
No, no, no. It’s just more local and personal – and with no admission fee.
The two most popular forms seem to be public monuments and yard art. Just look in the parks, the VFWs, American Legion Halls and everybody’s yard.
The need to make space special is deep and old. Those cave paintings and places like Stonehenge and many landmarked sites around the Hudson Valley testify to that.
Yard things are usually simpler than monuments. But they are more than just decoration. They are a language, a thing-language, about values, beliefs and a worldview. They are about the need for both order and disorder. Besides formal serious statements about beauty or patriotism or art, yard things allow a humor, playfulness and irony.
Some are easier to decode and understand than others. Just start looking. Which ones attract? Which ones repel? Here’s one in a nearby front yard:
And I saw this pink front loader was on the front lawn of a heavy machinery dealer on my way upstate. Is pink the new yellow?
Seen any good yard things lately? Daniel Mack