Storm King Art Center opens Wednesday; spring has arrived

Three Legged Buddha invites you to Storm King.Jerry L. Thompson

Three Legged Buddha invites you to Storm King.Jerry L. Thompson

Special exhibit is a Shanghai-born premiere

By Deborah J. Botti
For the Times Herald-Record
Last updated: 8:28 AM – 03/28/14

“Milly’s Temple,” a 17-foot-tall wooden sculpture, will be arriving in a steel container from Shanghai in the middle of April.

That sculpture will be on view for the first time ever in this season’s special exhibition at Storm King Art Center in Mountainville titled “Zhang Huan: Evoking Tradition,” which opens May 3.

However, visitors are welcome to roam the more than 500 acres beginning April 2, when Storm King reopens to the public for the season. While the 2014 exhibition will not yet be installed, there’s still plenty to see, such as “Three Legged Buddha,” a gift from Zhang Huan and Pace Gallery, the inspiration for this year’s theme.

Recognizing its rich resources, Anthony Davidowitz, director of operations, says two years ago, the board and administration of Storm King Art Center rethought public programs to cast its net further.

“We wanted to attract people who might not think to come here,” he says. “And education is a focus.”

In partnership with Black Rock Forest, children come to Storm King for a week to expand their knowledge of art and the landscape.

The more-than-12-ton, 28-foot-tall copper-and-steel “Three Legged Buddha” traveled in five sections from London by ship in 2010. It was trucked from the docks to Polich Tallix, a fine-art foundry in Newburgh, says David R. Collens, Storm King’s director and curator, for some minor repairs and welding to strengthen it to withstand being outdoors for a long period time. Once fortified, “Three Legged Buddha” then joined the more than 120 sculptures in Storm King’s collection.

“The artist was here four years ago to assist with the installation,” says Collens, referencing the sculpture’s dedication, which included Buddhist monks, Tibetan music, incense and more than 100 onlookers.
“It’s not a quick process,” says Collens. “And we’re incredibly selective about acquiring sculptures.”

Zhang, who was born in 1965 in Henan Province and returned to China in 2005 after living in New York for eight years, will return at the end of April with two assistants to oversee the placement of “Milly’s Temple,” as well as more than 15 other of his works arriving from China and New York in time for the opening.

Zhang, a practicing Buddhist, also incorporates ash collected from temples into his works. Jars of sorted ash will be on view in the Museum building, along with some sculptures and works on paper. Five large-scale works will be installed near the inspiration piece outdoors.

Melding art and nature

Storm King Art Center’s mission always has been to celebrate art in nature, and over the years, painstaking attention has been paid to the landscape.

Native grasses, for example, are thriving in about 80 acres, thanks to a commitment to annual planting and replanting.

“This year, there will be wildflowers among the grasses, too,” says Collens of the project that has taken a couple of years to bloom.

But maturing trees and grasses sometimes prompt a need to relocate a sculpture, says Anthony Davidowitz, director of operations.

“And because the sculptures are outdoors all year, it’s important, yet costly and time-consuming, to maintain them by washing, waxing, painting, welding, making foundation repairs. …” says Collens.

“We’re thankful for the support of our members, and we’re always looking for ways to expand our membership program. It’s a good value for the money,” says Davidowitz. “Last year, we broke the 100,000 visitors mark, a 30 percent increase from the year before. We’ve been incredibly lucky.”

Storm King.

For more information on everything from walks to workshops, visit the Events calendar at stormking.org.

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