“The smell of spray paint, grinding cold steel and the sizzle and spit of the welding torch are very cozy and comfortable to me—they are my version of the memory of the smell of chocolate chip cookies in the oven. The wonder was that he let us into his unconscious in a way that very few children experience. There in his sculptures was his imagination, layered out of the fields… aspects of his identity proclaiming their nature on the mountaintop. He allowed us to climb the biggest, strongest sculptures and bang on them when he wanted to make music. I can still hear the sounds we made. It was the music of the fields.”
So wrote Candida N. Smith, daughter of sculptor David Smith (1905-1966). Those words from The Fields of David Smith, her book about her father’s work, are on a plaque on the wall of the Museum Building at Storm King Art Center, the 500-acre outdoor sculpture museum in Mountainsville, NY, about an hour and a half from New York City. During a recent visit, I envisioned that building as the ideal home. This space will be the dining room, and here’s the art room, and just the right space for practicing yoga, I kept thinking as I went from room to room, in my mind’s eye removing some of the sculptures and basking in the perfectly proportioned spaces, views and light. Would it be sacrilegious to say I would leave Katie Holten’s “Timeline (A Light History of the Earth)” right where it is and hope to find a round, flat-screen television for the center. Ahh, the TV/reading room. And art is transformed into other art.
Luckily, my fantasies won’t come true. The building hasn’t been a private home for 50 years, since two Hudson Valley industrialists donated it to the State of New York. The house—a gallery for smaller-scale, non-weatherproof sculpture—and the gently undulating hills surrounding it are open to the public until the end of November.
For those of us who did not grow up around the making of art, the site offers an unparalleled opportunity to commune with 100 monumental sculptures by celebrated artists of the Modern era—even climb on some of then—and to walk, bike and picnic on the grounds.
The grounds, the earth, is a monumental sculpture, too. And it’s enhanced by sensitive plantings of stands of trees and the sculpting of lawns alternating with meadows—grasses left to grow tall and wave in the breezes—like music.