Thursday, October 1, 2009

Grounds For Sculpture - NJ Sculpture Garden

This is another very backdated post (sorry, I know..I am also getting tired of saying that at the beginning of almost every post :P). It's the first weekend of September and once again, Bank of America was having their Museums On Us promotion. For those of you who still don't know what that is, it's a program that Bank Of America is running. BoA customers can get free entrance to a whole list of museums nationwide (the list is on the BoA website) just by flashing their BoA card, every first weekend of the month. Since it's the Labor Day long weekend, Kevin and I decided to take a nice leisurely one and a half hours drive to Hamilton, NJ to check out Grounds For Sculpture (about 20 minutes away from Princeton).

Grounds For Sculpture is a 35-acre sculpture park and museum that was originally part of the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. Founded in 1992 by John Seward Johnson II, it opened it's doors to the public in 2000. Today, this sculpture park is home to over 240 large-scale contemporary sculptures, more than 2,000 rose bushes, 1,000 trees and numerous other flowers and shrubs planted to provide a beautiful setting for art. Waterways have also been excavated to create topographical contours and backdrops for sculpture.

Our first stop was the museum's visitors centre. A little tip for all of you who are planning to visit the Grounds For Sculpture. Head over to the visitors centre first before you do anything and buy yourself an Exhibition Site Map. It's only $1 and trust me, it will be a dollar well spent. Apart from a detailed map, you can also find all sorts of information about each sculpture/exhibition. Also, you can fill out a short survey at the information counter in the visitors centre and you get a Grounds For Sculpture souvenir poster free!

We had a great time just walking around the beautifully landscaped park, looking at various sculptures. Some were cute, modern looking and abstract...

While some was just downright weird! :P

Some of our favorite exhibits were works by Seward Johnson. A number of Johnson’s tableaus based on well-known nineteenth-century paintings are on view throughout Grounds For Sculpture. In the park are such favorites as Déjeuner Déjà Vu, inspired by Manet’s Déjeuner Sur L’Herbe and Family Secret, which is from Renoir’s On the Terrace. Here is an example of one of his more popular work in the park. He recreates Edouard Manet's (1832-83) painting, Déjeuner Sur l'Herbe, in his sculpture Déjeuner Déjà Vu with precise accuracy. It is difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is art. Johnson's three-dimensional play on a two-dimensional artwork brings Manet's painting one step closer to real life. Pretty cool eh? Here are more photos of his other works.

Yup, the best thing about recreating two-dimensional artwork to three-dimension is....we get to goof around and feel like we are 'part of the painting' :P We have tons of photos of us in various silly poses but we will spare you the ordeal of looking at them and just show you a few.

Another highlight is the Grounds for Sculpture’s charming restaurant, Rat’s. Rat's was conceived with Seward Johnson's vision of making visitors feel they have stepped into a village reminiscent of French impressionist Claude Monet's beloved town of Giverny. Overlooking Johnson’s sculptures inspired by Impressionists paintings, as well as the lily pond and bridge inspired by the works of Monet, Rat’s offers a magical ambiance for dining and a lovely compliment to the Grounds for Sculpture experience.

Here is the famous lily pond and bridge. With the smoke machine constantly going off at various intervals, it really does look like something out of a Monet painting. Don't you think so? Very beautiful.

After a long day of walking around the exhibits, we headed over to The Gazebo for a drink. Light snacks are also served here. The Gazebo is only opened during the warmer months of the year.

Here we are with our root beers. Too bad you can't really see the pond behind us. It was just so beautiful, with water lilies and willows trees by the bank. A perfect place to just sit back and relax. Drinks don't come cheap though. It cost us $7 just for two bottle of root beer :P You can also bring a picnic basket if you like. There are many picnic tables set up near the lake, all with awesome views.

We ended the day by heading over to the Domestic Arts Building to check out the museum gift shop as well as the Water Garden exhibit next to it. Back in the day, the Domestic Arts Building was an exhibit hall built in the 1920s for the NJ Fairgrounds to house displays of handicrafts, needlework, canned goods and other practical arts relating to the home. Today, it houses the museum gift shop as well as a cafe. Here are some photos from the Water Garden.

We spent just about 10 minutes or so here, cos it wasn't all that big. Also, the sky was getting dark and it started to drizzle a little, so we decided to call it a day.

On the way to the car, we stopped at the garden just next to the car park to snap a few photos of the peacocks. It's known as the peacock garden and you can find peacocks just roaming freely. I've never seen so many peacocks roaming freely in one small area. Cool stuff! :D We had a great time at the Grounds For Sculpture, a perfect place for a short getaway/day trip from the city. We will definitely try to return next summer, this time...maybe with a picnic basket!

Grounds For Sculpture
18 Fairgrounds Road
Hamilton, NJ 08619
Tel: (609) 586-0616
Fax: (609) 586-0968

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