Sunday, November 15, 2009

Outdoor Art in South Orange

We've got art all over the place in South Orange. You can't get away from it. Last weekend I went out to take photos of a few pieces, and I've chosen my favorite five.

Visitors should notice that two of these works are on private property. Please view them only from the sidewalk.


Bottle Piece. Artist unknown, 2009. Installation of cut plastic bottles. Private property, Grove Street near South Orange Avenue. Possibly still in progress.

I first saw the piece in June, in the green grass and the shade of the trees. I think it might look even better now with more sunlight and autumn leaves on the ground. I look forward to viewing it after a snowfall and in the bright green of springtime.


Leaning Tower of South Orange. Architect unknown, circa 1915. Stone rubble structure with modern metal door. Cameron Field, Mead Street near the Rahway River.

Like the famous tower in Pisa, this one was not originally meant to be leaning but has been maintained in its fortuitous state. The interior is not open to visitors. From the roof there would be a fine view of the Rahway River.

Although the building was meant for some humdrum official purpose, the needless castellated roof shows a sense of humor on the part of the original builders, and the mood is carried on by the vertical paint boundary on the right side of the doorknob hardware.


Tau. Tony Smith, designed 1962 and constructed 2006. Steel construction. Cameron Field, Ridgewood Road at Mead Street.

This is quite a controversial piece because not everyone in town considers it good value for money. Before its public dedication it was defaced by graffiti (now painted over) including the words "POOP" and "$250,000". That was terribly wrong. The cost was in fact approximately $355,000 (Star Ledger, November 21, 2008). Of this at least $175,000 was township money, but I have not been able to find a breakdown of costs and funding sources anywhere online including the official site The irony of it is that the piece is considered a gift to the township, where the artist once lived. An earlier copy of the same piece is at Hunter College in Manhattan, and a third copy may be allowed eventually as per the artist's wishes.

I did not notice in real life what my photograph shows: that from this angle, the piece forms three two-dimensional parallelograms. That's pretty cool, but it does not remain true from other angles.

PS: Christmas is coming, and if you're thinking of getting me something, that's kind of you, but please don't choose a gift that will cost me $355,000.


South Orange.
Michael Maier, circa 2002. Mixed materials. South Orange Middle School, Ridgewood Road.

Michael Maier, a commercial art director who lives in town, designed and fabricated a faux weathervane for the middle school featuring a large S and an arrow pointing south, an orange with leaves, and the word "Middle". As I have previously noted elsewhere, the leaves look to me like pumpkin leaves. But I will not complain. The artist personally climbed a ladder and refreshed the paint on the work in 2009, so he's all right with me.

As I recall, this work first appeared during the time my daughter attended the "pink prison" seen in the background. That's how I am guessing the date.


Gita's Garden. Artist unknown, in progress since circa 2004. Installation of sculptures, various materials. Private property, Wyoming Avenue north of South Orange Avenue.

I've driven past this large installation over the past few years, but I could give it no more than a passing glance from the car. It deserves much more time. I'm glad I finally looked at it on foot. It could be that I have a weakness for large, elaborately detailed things.

The central piece, seen above, provides the name and dedication. The two views below show most (but not all) of the installation, looking south and north along the public sidewalk.

I chose a few details, seen below. One of the figures along the sidewalk is a pelican that was in an appropriate pool of water following recent rain. Three bears are among the figures along the north side of the drive. Whether the individual pieces were found or made specifically for the installation is not known.

My earliest memory of the installation was of the large cat seen below, and it may have been the first figure on the property. It has been moved around as the piece has developed and grown in size. A few years ago the cat was near the north side and painted black like a panther. In its current bronze color it is close to the south boundary, and has been augmented with a bird perched on its head.


Now I bet you wish you lived here, right? You could soak up the creative energy and then go do great things, no matter what it is you do.

Next time: Superama.

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