At Saunders Farm in Garrison, something magical is happening.
Normally the historic 140 acres of land are home to a herd of Black Angus cattle, but in preparation for Collaborative Concepts’ The Farm Project 2011, which opened this weekend for its sixth season, the grounds have been slowly transforming into an invigorating outdoor art exhibit. And the cows don’t seem to mind at all.
Scattered throughout the seven hilly fields of the farm, and there to stay for the next two months, are pieces of “cow-proof” and “cow-friendly” art created by 60 local, national and international artists.
At the Sept. 4 opening you could still smell the fresh paint drying on some of the installations, and a few artists were just finishing their pieces as guests made their way around the show.
Located at the bottom of the first field, Crompond-based artist Dana Kenn joked about how she unintentionally found herself contributing to the performance art taking place on the farm that day as she and her daughter worked to finish assembling the large blocks of PVC piping and stenciled plastic signage that make up the artist’s Cow Toys exhibit.
“The cows are my favorite audience, so I made them something they can bounce around,” said Kenn.
Aside from the numerous sculptures that will be on display for the duration of the show, appearing exclusively for Saturday’s opening was Performance Art on the Farm 2011, curated by Marcy B. Freedman, which took place all day throughout four of the farm’s seven fields.
The live performances included a vast range of talent from Obscura, a family-friendly photo-op by Howard Goodman and Carla Rae Johnson, to the R-rated, provocative Proverbs 7:22-23 by California artist Joshua M. Bupp.
Performance Art on the Farm 2011 will return once more at the mid-run reception taking place on Oct. 1, and at that time will include a piece by Freedman herself titled Seeking Shades of Green (One Thing About My Mother).
Throughout the hot and hazy Saturday guests made their way up and down the fields of tall grass to see all that The Farm Project 2011 had to offer. Many stopped to pose in front of sculptures for pictures. Children pointed in amazement and adults stood in speculation.
The farm hilltops, which overlook the majestic Hudson Highlands, provide a spectacular view to those who appreciate nature as well as art.
“I always think it’s nice to experience art in a natural environment because you also get to take in other things like the smells and the weather,” said Jackie Skrzynski, a Cornwall-on-Hudson resident who came out to see the show.
While all of the pieces featured on the farm held their own charm and beauty, one of the sculptures in between fields three and five attracted a notable amount of attention from guests, especially the younger ones, because of its interactive qualities. The large, movable metal sphere of leaf shapes, (13 different species of leaves to be specific, all of which are indigenous to the area), was designed by Peter Trout Gard, an artist from Philadelphia.
“I came over the hill and saw some kids spinning it. It’s so nice to see people playing with it,” said the artist, who went on to mention that the sculpture had previously been displayed suspended over a pond where people couldn’t get close to it.
“I designed it so it could move slightly with the wind, that way every time you look at the piece it would be a little different,” said Gard about his sculpture’s movement.
Down from Gard’s piece stands a tree marking the entrance to field six. This tree was specially sought out by artist Sheilah Rechtshaffer (with the help of professional forester Anne Osborn) because of its age.
“This Tree is Seventy Three,” reads a small sign next to the installment.
“Same age as me,” said Rechtshaffer.
The tree is a black gum tree, and is one of about four or five trees on the property that qualified for the artist’s piece, which involved Rechtshaffer wrapping recycled double-braided rope that she painted in green paint around the trunk seventy-three times.
“Trees are the lungs of the world,” writes the artist in her statement about the piece. “We all need good lungs in order to live and endure a million assaults on our natural world. Saunders Farm is a protected property and this tree may outlast me, but maybe not. Nothing is certain.”
In order to bring all of this art to Saunders Farm Collaborative Concepts, the not-for profit organization received partial funding from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program, as well as the Anne Anastasi Charitable Foundation and other friends of the arts.
Collaborative Concepts has curated over 40 shows at various venues throughout the Hudson Valley since their founding in 1999, and are a non-member organization. To find out more, visit their website: collaborativeconcepts.org.
Saunders Farm is located at 853 Old Albany Post Rd., in Garrison, NY. The Farm Project 2011 will be on display until Oct. 30, with a mid-run show reception on Oct.1, from 1pm - 6pm. Admission is free, and leashed dogs are welcome to attend.