I first spotted the young couple when I stood up and stretched my back. Digging with my spade to level the ground to install a sculpture takes its toll. They were looking at the details of one in the other row; he touching, she talking. We had been setting up the show under leaden skies with the odd spot of rain and keeping the steady trickle of visitors, who wanted to see the tulips and buy some bulbs, entertained; those who ventured among the sculptures that is. By the time we had finished the one we were working on the couple had made it to the end of one row and turned to come up the other. My glances followed their progress; they were clearly engrossed.
We met as I scraped the earth off my spade, puffed from digging. In answer to my, what I believed to be, rhetorical question as to whether they were enjoying the sculptures they both grinned and replied in the affirmative. ‘Great, wonderful’, were their replies, ‘such variety’.
Two young Americans from New York here on working visas, living in Chelsea by the beach up in the hills for the day, just called in to Tesselaar out of interest and found sculptures. She, Hilary (no, not that one) is a personal trainer, dressed as such in track suit, trainers and beanie; he, Aaron, a mechanical engineer dressed, well, like a mechanical engineer. He designs machines for a company that also has a foundry in which car parts and such-like are cast by the million. They also cast sculptures. These, usually one-offs, are more interesting and challenging, he said, and sometimes pushes their expertise to the limits unlike the routine of car parts; ‘drives them mad’, were the words he used but he said it with such a beaming smile that I knew he enjoyed the work.
They told me of Storm King, a sculpture park in New York State. I remarked that its title had a whiff of Disney about it but was assured of its superior credentials. Five hundred acres is home to hundreds of permanent outdoor sculptures collected since World War 2 they told me. Americans predominate of course but other big names are represented too including Calder, Moore, Noguchi and Goldsworthy; so many you cannot see them all in a day and you would definitely need meal breaks.
We talked of other big sculpture parks. Yorkshire, with its own particularly English flavour, was mentioned and, as you might expect in this Olympic year, so was China. The Changchun Sculpture Park is home to a similar collection of modernism, a little post-modernism and with a heavy dose of social realism thrown in. We agreed that these proportions of this combination would change, no doubt, as does China but thought it would be a long time before the distinctive flavour of sculpture parks would be overcome by the march of homogenisation.
I explained our purpose at Tesselaar and told Hilary and Aaron of the McClelland Sculpture Park. They assured me they will take their New York visitors there in November.
Who would have thought that a mechanical engineer and a personal trainer from the other side of the world and a puffing old man with a spade could be connected by sculpture, but then, you see, the most important characteristic of sculpture, like all the arts, is its ability to unify.
John Wooller President