I had one of those I-can’t-believe-I’m-here experiences last month. A friend invited me to a barn party; I said yes and hopped a ride down to Woodside, Calif., just south of San Francisco. Turns out, this was no ordinary barn, and certainly no ordinary farm. I had landed myself at the Runnymede Sculpture Farm, a private collection of more than 150 sculptures by contemporary artists spread over 120 acres.
It was a complete visual feast. Rolling hills touched with the new green of spring were spotted with not only oak trees but also beautiful creations of metal, ceramic, concrete, and wood. Every few steps around the grounds revealed a new sculpture. There were Celeste Roberge’s “Rising Cairn” and “Walking Cairn,” a pair of steel-framed human figures filled with rocks; Ilan Averbuch’s “Horse Head” of granite chunks and wood, made for Runnymede; Mark di Suvero’s large-scale teetering H-beam “Symbiosis;” and an untitled painted aluminum sculpture by pop artist Keith Haring. It was unreal to be hanging out with friends — drinking wine, barbecuing, setting up tents — around the works of such famed artists. We tossed the Frisbee next to Mia Westerlund Roosen’s string of “American Beauties,” we danced to a band and DJs in Runnymede’s restored stone dairy barn, and when it was time to sleep, we camped out beneath the stars under the towering steel of “Kitsune” by Charles Ginnever — the sculpture’s concrete pad the perfect size for two sleeping bags.
This experience got me thinking about how we interact with art. We’re typically mere observers, catching glimpses at museums and public parks. Never have I interacted with sculptures in such a casual, personal way. Never have I had the time to spend so many hours in the presence of fine art.
I challenge you to spend some extra time with art this month. You could simply spend a full minute in front of a painting; art critic and historian James Elkins cited a few surveys in a Huffington Post article about the average time museum visitors look at a painting, and none of them topped 17 seconds. You could even camp out under the Deborah Butterfield horse in front of the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, but I can’t guarantee you won’t be arrested.
Spending this extra time with art creates a sort of dialogue, where we can view it, let it speak to us, and then see it again in a new light. “You have to believe that you can have an ongoing, evolving relationship with something that is unchanging,” Elkins wrote. “Many people might say that is impossible.” I think it’s entirely possible. Try it, and let me know what you think.
In May of 2009 I started writing this art column for Moonshine Ink. Sadly, this is the last of my six-year run, in which I’ve had the honor to learn from our community’s artists and craftspeople, and share their work with Moonshine readers. This column pushed me to create as well: I made a zine, learned to block print, and even turned wood on a lathe. It has truly been one of the best adventures of my life. I’m moving on to new creative outlets and explorations, but will remain, in good Moonshine style, intoxicated by art. Thanks for reading!
~ Comment on this column below.