Carving out a legacy

Bradford Graves Sculpture Park in Kerhonkson showcases life’s work of master stoneworker

by Frances Marion Platt
September 09, 2010 12:57 PM | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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As the worst of summer’s heat and humidity fades and the intensely blue skies and crisp mornings of early autumn begin to make their appearance, it’s a good time to consider the myriad opportunities that the mid-Hudson Valley offers to experience large sculptural works in the great outdoors. There’s the Storm King Arts Center in Mountainville, of course, and Art Omi up in Ghent; closer to home, we can visit the Sculpture Garden at Unison Arts & Learning Center in New Paltz or the grand labyrinthine earthwork carved out of a bluestone quarry in High Woods by Harvey Fite, Opus 40. Then there are the more ephemeral exhibitions like the Kingston Sculpture Biennial and last year’s “Ahoy! Where Lies Henry Hudson?” outdoor sculpture exhibit put on by the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild.

But over in Kerhonkson, off the ancient Lenape homeland trail now known as Route 209 on the less-accessible west flank of the Shawangunks, there’s another, lesser-known place to view much of the life’s work of a sculptor who left this world in 1998: the Bradford Graves Sculpture Park. It’s open by appointment only, but well worth investigating.

Born in Texas in 1939, Bradford Graves moved to New York City in 1958 to study at the School of Visual Arts, the American School and the New School, notably with Seymour Lipton; he worked as an assistant to Alfred Van Loen from 1959 to 1962. He bucked the trends of the day for sculptors to manipulate steel, aluminum and plastic, preferring to work mostly with cut limestone. Fascinated by archaeology, he traveled all over the world to study what he called the “stone cultures,” including Greece, Israel, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Scotland, West Africa, Egypt, Japan and the American Southwest. In the 1960s he worked as a monument restorer for the New York City Department of Parks. From 1974 to 1980 Graves was a member of the Sculpture faculty at Parsons School of Design and from 1969 to 1998 he served on the Fine Arts faculty of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

The works that Bradford Graves produced, over 200 of which now reside in Kerhonkson, reflect his studies of ancient megaliths, his fascination with the writings of Thoreau and his artistic philosophy that “stone came from the Earth and with human intervention became sculpture, to lie on the ground only to return to the Earth after time,” to quote the website dedicated to his life and work. His forms often appear more modern than primitive, but they interact with gravity and the soil in ways that suggest that one has stumbled upon a sacred site of some long-forgotten culture.

You can glimpse more of Graves’s artworks at Bradford Graves Sculpture Park is open from May to the end of October by appointment, and admission is free. All the sculpture is for sale, with prices available upon request. For information call (845) 230-0521.

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