May 2012: The Maiden Voyage of the Arts Adventurer

from the Artsology series The Arts Adventurer

One might think that with my proximity to New York (15 miles east of here in Glen Ridge, NJ) and all of the art that the city has to offer, that my first arts adventure would take place in one of the five boroughs. Well, that seemed too predictable, and I have a book from the library that was providing me with other ideas. Titled AIA New Jersey Guidebook: 150 Best Buildings and Places, I read about a place I had never heard of before, the "Grounds for Sculpture" in Hamilton, NJ, which is a 42-acre public sculpture park featuring nearly 300 sculptures. Before I even hit the road, though, since this was going to be my maiden voyage for The Arts Adventurer, I decided that one location wasn’t going to be enough, and a quick look at the map showed me that the city of Trenton was very close to Hamilton. Since I had never yet visited Trenton, and knowing that it is the state capital of NJ, I figured there must be something arts-related there that could be of interest. I did a Google search and came up with very little in the way of art galleries or any other indication that there was an arts district, but decided I would go there anyway and see what I could see.


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My route to Hamilton included going south on the Garden State Parkway and then heading west on Route 1 (side note here: Route 1 runs the full length of the East Coast, from Fort Kent, Maine – at the Canadian border – to Key West, Florida ... maybe a full journey of Route 1 is an adventure for another day?). Once I got onto Route 1 after leaving the Parkway, the first thing that struck me visually were all of the power lines running alongside the highway. I later tried to research why there are so many huge towers and a seemingly endless run of these power lines in this location, and came up empty ... but a reader provided the following explanation (below the picture):

a long run of power lines along the south side of Route 1 South in NJ

Reader Al Smith commented here: "The reason why those particular power lines run in a straight line along Route 1 all the way to Trenton is because they at one time shared a right of way for a trolley. The trolley was run by Public Service back when they were in the transit business. Public Service is now PSE&G (Public Service Electric and Gas), and they own those power lines. The trolley line was called the "Newark Trenton Fast Line."

Another reason why these power lines grabbed my attention was because they triggered a memory of an image from long ago, a photograph by Neil Runyon which I exhibited in my former East Village gallery, "McKinney Arts," back in 1997. The exhibition was titled "The Affected Landscape," and featured photographs by Marina Berio, John Foster, Emmet Gowin, Lisa Kereszi, Mark Klett, and Neil Runyon. Neil's picture - titled High Tension Series III, 1996 - was a tinted gelatin silver print of similar power lines (below left), and his picture showed the towers as looming monsters in a dark landscape.

As I got off of Route 1 and proceeded through the local streets of Hamilton, there didn't seem to be much going on ... a lot of low one or two story industrial buildings, a few homes, but not much commercial activity, at least on the route that I was driving on my way to Grounds for Sculpture. The last road leading to the park was named "Sculptor's Way," and there wasn't any sculpture to be seen, until I saw this guy (below right) - what is it? A mouse with a mustache? A rat in nice clothes? I'm not sure, but it told me I was close, and indeed I was ... just a few hundred yards away from the entrance.

Neil Runyon photograph from the exhibition The Affected Landscape at McKinney Arts, 1997

weird sculpture of a man-sized mouse with a mustache wearing human clothes, on Sculptors Way in Hamilton NJ