Art for Cows and Other Creatures

Deadline is April 22 for proposals for Saunders Farm art show

By MJ Wyatt Ross

The cows, frankly, will have the best view of the amazing art that’s going to come to the Saunder’s Farm Project 2015 in Garrison. But that’s not to say that you can’t enjoy it, too. You just need to be careful where you step. Because first and foremost, this is cow country.

The exhibition is put together each year through Collaborative Concepts (collaborativeconcepts.org) and is supported by the New York State Council on the Arts. Although the actual show goes from Sept. 5 through Nov. 1, the deadline for submitting your outdoor art project proposal is April 22. So now’s the time to get into this creative, freewheeling, open-air art adventure. Whether you are an artist planning to exhibit or an observer, the rewards can be significant.

Throughout 140 acres of rolling hills, glens and open pastures, visitors have a chance to view about 50 installations ranging from (if past exhibitions are an indication of the future) giant faces made of steel, vine-covered ropes stretched high over a pond (I think the pond doubles as the cows’ bathtub and watering hole), structures that light up with different colors at night, poignant words scrawled on wood, sculptures of angels and aliens and some art that simply defies description.

The show has been attracting attendees from near and far for the last nine years. It’s a way to spend a few hours roaming the fields, getting some exercise and enjoying the works that peek out of the woods or pop up just over the next hill. The art glints in the sun, tips in the wind and challenges the imagination. There’s also live performance art.

Sometimes you’ll bump into an artist who’s there in person adjusting his exhibit or mending damage done by rain or wind.

When I was there for a show the cows were enjoying a large and colorful work with slow-moving parts that the cows could push as they walked by. It wasn’t clear whether they were enjoying the art or their grassy brunch better. They moved perfectly in step in a single line — a lot like the Rockettes, only beefier. They snort, they chew, they moo. Just don’t stand too close to the moms and their calves.

One of the smartest aspects of this particular exhibition is that all the art is cow-friendly. There are no holes or cables that could trip or confine; no sharp or pointy edges at cow level. It’s people friendly, too, in that there’s something for almost everyone, whether you’re 5 or 85.

As you head toward higher ground on Saunders land, some of the hills will offer dreamlike 360 views of the Hudson Highlands. Some of the Saunders’ trees, stone walls and other features of the farm have been worked into the art pieces. It’s as if the art has fused with the farm and fields, not just plopped on top of the ground.

The artists are responsible for removing their creations after the show ends. (If they don’t, they’ll get to pick up the tab for removal … and will never be invited to subsequent exhibits again. Ever. And Collaborative Concepts gets to keep the abandoned art. So there.)

There’s a run-down of all the artists, their works and a site map in a mailbox (it masquerades as one of the works of art) near the start of the exhibit. And you can get a catalog of the entire collection from Collaborative Concepts. If one of the sculptures catches your eye or strikes your fancy, there’s a distinct possibility you can even buy it for your own. As an homage to the cows, there’s usually a large black silhouette of a cow or cows walking or bathing, which could make a perfect lawn or field ornament for you or a deserving friend.

Over the years we’ve found a great deal of activities to enjoy in the Hudson Highlands — kayaking, biking, antiquing, hiking, listening to music from classical to rock, visiting the Stormville flea market, dining, watching movies for the whole town shown on giant outdoor screens at twilight when the lightning bugs come out. I never tire of this part of the world.

Why not make a visit?


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