Go See Art Outside this Summer

by - Thursday, August 25, 2016

view of olympic sculpture park and seattle skyline
from seattletimes.com

Now that it is getting so nice outside, I have been pining to go check out the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. Sculpture parks are one of those amazing things, because so often they are free, and it is a great way to check out art (often contemporary art) in a more laid back and fun setting. I know from teaching at the Cantor, if you want to get kids excited about art, helping them move through sculptures outside, where the rules seemingly change, empowers them to connect in ways you won't see outside. Plus, you can experience the environment, the sun, the ocean breeze while you look at art. It's pretty awesome.

A peace sign in a Mark di Suvero sculpture at Chrissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge in the backgroundMark di Suvero at Chrissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background

A lot of museums now have sculpture parks because beginning in the 60's, a lot of sculpture was made to be semi-monumental, and to be viewed outside. Museums like SFMoMA stage huge shows in public settings (such as Mark di Suvero at Chrissy Field, which just closed last month), and they can make you see a place in a totally new way. Permanent outdoor collections also just feel like an adventure. The best ones combine the beauty of the environment with art objects, so you find them in surprising places.  If you have some travel planned this summer, or you are just looking for something different in your neighborhood, think about what art is living outside. It might make a great place for a summer afternoon. Here are some great ones:

The Getty Sculpture Garden

The Fran and Ray Stark Sculpture Garden at the Getty- I don't care how you feel about art, there is no better place to spend a Saturday in Los Angeles than the Getty Museum, which has gorgeous views of the city and a breeze from being up on the hill. They have an interesting collection of art (the shows I have seen there, honestly, were a little lame), but some of the great pieces are actually outside, and I had one of the best days ever with my brother just hanging out there.

Storm King Art Center- In Mountainville, New York (in the gorgeous Hudson River Valley), this park is consistently on the lists of best sculpture parks in the world, with one of the best collections in the United States. I haven't been to this one, but clearly, I need to go. He has a huge collection of David Smith's anchoring the whole thing, with works from everyone from Alexander Calder to Maya Lin (of Memorial fame).

the deCordova Sculpture Park- This is the other staple on every list of great sculpture parks. It is worth going just to see the Lichtensteins, but the grounds and building on it are also some of the most gorgeous you can see. If you are near Lincoln, MA, you should check it out!

The Hirschorn Museum

Some museums have great sculptures parks right outside their door as well- I am thinking specifically of the Hirschorn in DC,  The Rodin Sculpture Garden at Stanford, outside the Chicago Institute of Art, Mass MOCA, and the DIA Foundation. There are plenty of wonderful outdoor sculptures near museums- you don't even have to go in!

If you want even more outside art, try checking out what monuments and land art might be around you. These works are often more site specific, meaning that they were built specifically for the world around them, so you can really enjoy and think about the relationship between the object and its setting. Plus, some of the most famous ones, like Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson, are absolute adventures (see: ridiculous) to get to. Here are some Land Art pieces for you avant garde adventurers and monuments for those of you who like more kitchy or historical cultural fun (no judgement- I love both!)

 Double Negative- This is outside Overton, Nevada, and it is an adventure to get to, from all accounts, specifically so you can see a giant hole in the ground. But a freaking brilliant hole, right?

Navajo National Monument/ Montezuma Castle Monument- This is way towards the top of my Bucket List (right next to Monument Valley, God's monument to John Wayne). These historical monuments preserve the most intact cliff dwellings of peoples who lived in Pueblos. They are so strange and beautiful, and they are a good reminder that the Western Canon actually destroyed other cultures in its search of progress.

The Portland Headlight- Everyone go see some lighthouses. They are pretty and cool, and are usually really really windy. I love them on both coasts, but this is probably one of the greatest.

Cadillac Ranch- The Ant Farm made this piece simultaneously lampooning and praising American car culture. This piece is pretty popular for artists and tourists alike, and it lives just outside Amarillo Texas.

Cloud Gate (The Bean)- Chicago tourists often get their picture taken in front of this giant mirror, and I wonder how it would be to spend a whole day in this plaza- that probably makes for a great people-watching for the day. I also wonder if Anish Kapoor was building off of Nancy Holt's gates, which are famous land art works that you can go see as well, and there are "gate" sculptures in Seattle Center! Maybe I will do a whole blog on sculptures with "gate" in the title.

There are about a million suggestions I could give of things to go see. These are either ones I love or would love to go to. Just don't go to Mount Rushmore. Seriously, that place is my enemy, and it will turn against you.

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  1. If you had not written this, we never would have gone to Storm King, which is the most freakin awesome place we have ever visited. You cannot overstate the outdoorsy freaky artsy sculpture mountain thing here. Everyone should go....



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