Where to go in these times of war, pandemics and deep political confusion, for a moment of reflection, relief, perhaps a bit more clarity? Yes, our region is blessed in trails, vistas and parks that welcome the culture-weary visitor. And for the next few months, there’s another, odder, but potent, opportunity to get another view, from another time of distress.
In Sugar Loaf, NY, there’s that 55-acre homestead of Surrealist artist Kurt Seligmann and his wife Arlette. Through January, the homestead-turned-museum is hosting an exhibit of some of the artist’s original art and belongings, most never seen before. That alone would be enough for a visit, but there’s more. The property is enchanted. It’s in the shadow of Sugar Loaf Mountain, a pristine piece of land about to become part of the Orange County Land Trust. On the property are several early farm buildings, outdoor art pieces and a bog garden. The Seligmanns are buried there, next to the original farm family, in a small graveyard guarded by a massive dead ash tree.
These juxtapositions of then and now, life and death, made and natural are all in the essential spiritual nature of Surrealism. It was meant to open the portal between this world and another. Its playful, jarring techniques, violations of good order and conventions were meant to help loosen and free the spirit, creating experiences of wonder and insight.
A few things to keep in mind as you visit: Marcel Duchamp visited there in 1942 and shot a bullet into the stone foundation of the barn. He then used a photo of that bullet in a piece of his art. Seligmann died there in 1962 of a self-inflicted, accidental gunshot from that same rifle, while hunting. Many locals still recall his wife, Arlette, who lived there ‘til 1992, and her legendary gardens. Finally, the Orange County Land Trust is looking for help in completing the purchase and protection of Sugar Loaf Mountain to ensure and broaden access to this enchanted locale.