After months spent in quarantine, a common feeling shared among most in the Tri-state area is a longing for the great outdoors. While it was easy to take a safe hike on a remote trail during quarantine, many museums and parks closed down. New Jersey has shown signs of success as it continues to launch its plan for reopening, but aside from restaurants, where else is there to take a weekend trip in the spirit of adventure? A friend of mine recently approached me with the suggestion of visiting the Grounds For Sculpture, and I’m glad I agreed to go.
The Grounds For Sculpture is located in Hamilton, New Jersey and is rather well known among locals. Recently reopened, all you’ll have to do to spend an immersive afternoon onsite is reserve some tickets and go. Once through the main gates and on the grounds, you’ll immediately get a taste of what sculptural and horticultural delights await your every turn.
Much to my amazement there was everything from abstract pieces that stood alone to large scenes that felt like movie sets. Looping around the park by going south and then back around to the beginning made for a sprawling route of discovery, and had me feeling like I was Alice in Wonderland. Having gone through the looking-glass and come back, there were way too many amazing pieces to talk about, but it is worth taking a journey to highlight some of my personal favorites to give an idea of what the park has to offer.
The first piece is one of the more stationary pieces, something you might expect to see at a sculpture park. Vita by Michael Shewmaker is a stainless steel piece that caught my attention because of how it reflects light. When I got in close for a picture, I realized it was much more than just a normal statue. The way it reflected light made it almost appear invisible in the picture. It evoked a great sense of intrigue as to what awaited me throughout the park. I found this piece early on in my adventure through the park, but I was only scratching the surface. I continued onward to see what else I could find.OPEN GALLERYThe second piece gives an idea of what the wider set sculptures had to offer. When I walked onto If It Were Time by Seward Johnson, I felt like I was walking into another time. It is based on Garden at Sainte-Adresse by Claude Monet, and it definitely shows. I later learned there was a theme of classical paintings being turned into sculpted scenes that ran throughout the park. The patio felt like a dive back into the mid-1800s and somewhere on the shores of France. To my surprise, a big lake resided on the park campus, and it proved that the park was constructed in such a fashion that a giant lake could be hidden in a back corner. It felt like a great place to take some pictures with friends and enjoy the summer weather. It was only one of many gems that are tucked away into the park’s corners awaiting discovery.
Lastly, one of the much stranger sculptures I found is located toward the end of my journey. Has Anyone Seen Larry? by Seward Johnson is a hilariously named piece for an otherwise horrifying sculpture. The witch gathering is gruesome yet interesting to inspect. A sprinkler released mist into the air and gave the pot a steamy feeling as if the bloody soup was brewing. The sculpture was placed at a crossroads, and everyone who passed by it shared a mix of awkward laughs and perturbed looks. If nothing else, the piece proves that there’s truly something for everyone at the Grounds for Sculpture.
All in all, the Grounds for Sculpture is a great activity to get out of the house and enjoy the weather. There’s so much I couldn’t highlight, but to give a selection of the variety that the park provides leaves a lot unspoiled for those seeking adventure. On the park’s website there’s an interactive map that you can use to get a look ahead of time, but I think part of the magic is diving down the rabbit hole blindly. I managed to spend a full day walking around the park, and its hours of operation give visitors a wide range of times to really take it all in. The park is great for someone who has knowledge of art history and an appreciation for walking slowly, because rushing through the park would take away from how immersive it is at its core. Take a weekend to do the loop through the grounds, the adventure won’t disappoint, unless you end up like Larry.
Link to the park’s website: https://www.groundsforsculpture.org/
Interactive Map: https://www.gfsmap.org/if-it-were-time
New Jersey Covid Status: https://covid19.nj.gov/