Author Archives: lisabsowitzsilverman

The Otherwordly Storm King Art Center

I was invited to go to Storm King Art Center by a good friend, and couldn’t pass up the chance to spend a day taking in the peak autumn leaves and architectural sculptures. The Storm King Art Center is located in New Windsor, NY, a few minutes south of Newburgh. Originally founded in 1960 as a museum devoted to Hudson River School art, Storm King hosts a plethora of primarily outdoor sculptures across 500 acres of land. From my visit, it seems the clientele range from beard-and-beanie college students to grandmothers wearing all black and artistic glasses, with some groups of young parents and school trips thrown in. The center offers bike rentals and a free tram that runs every half hour. Though the tram is meant to provide an option for those with limited mobility and children to see all of the grounds, it was also convenient for when lazy college students get tired and hungry and want a ride back to the parking lot.

Two Mark Di Suvero sculptures on a beautiful sunny day.

Two Mark Di Suvero sculptures on the expansive grounds.

The grounds are planted with swaths of meticulously manicured grasses and flowers, separated by groves of sun-dipped trees. Gravel pathways wove through the landscape to the sculptures dotting the hillsides. The unevenness of the grounds makes it so you can only view a few sculptures at a time, so by turning a corner or reaching the crest of a hill reveals a completely foreign view. There are over 100 sculptures and installations spread throughout the grounds, but a few stuck out to me.

Lili and the Pink Ladies by Lynda Benglis.

Lili and the Pink Ladies by Lynda Benglis.

The two special exhibitions, both running until November, were two of my favorite works. Lynda Benglis: Water Sources featured several fascinating fountains, made of oozy, gloppy metal and polyurethane that looked like mud creatures either huddled to gossip or poised to devour each other. My favorite was the shockingly colored Pink Ladies, inspired by the color of a kite that Benglis saw during a kite-flying festival in India. The columns of translucent pink gurgle water from tiny openings into a circular pool.

Part of Luke Stettner's a,b,moon,d.

Part of Luke Stettner’s a,b,moon,d.

Outlooks: Luke Stettner had an intriguing outdoor piece, called a,b,moon,d. Inspired by codes, language, and the confusion of a small child between the letter “C” and a crescent moon, Stettner created the site-specific work with biochar-filled trenches. The result is an over 80-foot expanse of land that looks like crop circles burned into the meadow.

Another favorite from the permanent exhibition was Andy Goldsworthy’s Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall. The curving stone wall’s story is its title—Goldsworthy and four other stoneworkers constructed the work on Storm King’s fiftieth anniversary in 2010 with stones found on the property. The wall weaves around the boulders almost as fluidly as the nearby creek, with crimson vines creeping across the stone.

Virginia creeper creeping across Andy Goldsworthy's Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall.

Virginia creeper creeping across Andy Goldsworthy’s Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall.

Spending the day there united my love of art with my love of nature. Part museum, part breathtaking landscape, part alien village, Storm King is a truly unique experience, especially with the amazing fall foliage. The scale of the works is something you don’t see at every museum, and it was great to expose myself to new styles of art. I especially appreciate the close connection between nature and art at Storm King because they complement each other so well both aesthetically and because they calm me psychologically. Though it is a bit far off from any real town center, that is part of the magic of the space. I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to spend a warm autumn day than amongst trees, hills, stones, and metal creatures.

Visit Storm King Art Center’s website to learn more about visiting hours, directions, and current exhibitions.


Ferncliff Forest

Located in Rhinebeck, NY, Ferncliff Forest is a 200-acre nature preserve that offers the opportunity for a brief walk in the woods culminating in a view of the entire region from atop a fire tower. The preserve offers hiking and camping for all ages, and leashed dogs and horses are allowed on the trails.

View from Ferncliff's fire tower.

View from Ferncliff’s fire tower.


Ferncliff Forest is currently owned by the Rhinebeck Rotary, but prior to that it was owned by members of the Astor family. The Astor family was prominent in business and politics in the 19th and 20th century, and thus became social icons of America’s affluent class during that time. Ferncliff Forest was created by William Backhouse Astor purchasing several small farms in the area in 1853. From that point on, subsequent family members continued to purchase nearby properties to create what would become a 2,800 acre plot by 1940. During this time, the land served as the site of farming colonies and other agricultural purposes. When John Jacob Astor died in the Titanic disaster in 1912, the Ferncliff property as well as all of Astor’s wealth, was inherited by his eighteen year old son Vincent Astor. Upon Vincent’s death in 1959, ownership of the property passed to his wife Brooke Russell Astor. She then donated the 200 acre plot to the Rhinebeck Rotary. The nature preserve as it can be seen today was established by Homer Staley, the forest’s first park ranger, in 1964. The history of the forest is intriguing in itself, but it also benefits visitors. Since the land was donated to the Rhinebeck Rotary, a private organization, the trails have been made open to the public, free of charge.

The Hike

The trail is well-marked and the walk itself is not very strenuous; it is the fire tower that poses the biggest challenge (especially if you are afraid of heights). The tower can hold around 6 people comfortably, and offers a fantastic panoramic view of the Hudson Valley. There is hardly any climbing on the walk, so it can be puzzling to think that it will somehow end in a spectacular panoramic view, but once you see how tall the firetower is, it all makes sense. Climbing the stairs to the top of the tower certainly gets your blood pumping, but it is manageable for people of all ages.


Hello from halfway up the tower!

Fortunately for our class, we took this trip to Ferncliff Forest at the height of the fall foliage period. The walk was full of wonderful views of trees with leaves of different shades of red, orange, and yellow. There are several ponds along the trails, all of which served as excellent reflecting pools of the brightly colored trees behind them. One of the ponds is currently under construction. A sign informed us that the forest has received a grant to turn the current gravel and weeds into a meadow, which would be a welcome change for both visitors and wildlife. As of October 1st, Ferncliff Forest still needs $12,000 in order to finish the project, and anyone can donate to this worthy cause on Ferncliff Forest’s website.


Reflections of fall.

Although 200 acres may seem small for a nature preserve, Ferncliff Forest is teeming with wildlife. While walking on the trails, we spotted several frogs, along with an astonishing amount of salamanders. This close proximity to nature as well as the stunning views and relaxing hike is especially appealing to city folk who crave interaction with nature but may not have had many opportunities to experience it.


A salamander friend!


After the hike, our class spent some time in nearby downtown Rhinebeck. This is highly recommended, as the hike is short enough that it won’t consume most of the day, but long enough that afterwards you will feel that you earned some more relaxing downtime, such as getting a coffee, grabbing a knick knack at the 5 and Dime, and walking around Rhinebeck’s beautiful downtown.

The class relaxes with some coffee at Bread Alone Bakery in Rhinebeck.

The class relaxes with some coffee at Bread Alone Bakery in Rhinebeck.

Click here for more information on visiting Ferncliff Forest!