Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Silliness and Sophistication: A Trip to Grounds for Sculpture

Here I am trying to get the attention of this highly preoccupied gentleman at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey.

"Pardon me, Sir. Do you have any Grey Poupon?"

Over the Memorial Day weekend, I traveled with three friends to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. We actually made a weekend of it, spending Saturday in Seaside Heights, Sunday afternoon at Grounds for Sculpture and Monday at the Adventure Aquarium in Camden.

We had a little bit of difficulty at the outset. My friend Iris, our trip organizer, bought our four tickets online.  We traveled to the grounds in two separate vehicles. Iris and I were in one with all four of the tickets. Adrienne and Jeannie, who arrived first, discovered that they needed tickets to enter the gates at the parking lot, so they purchased two more tickets to enter the gates. Now, Iris had two extra tickets she had purchased. She read that the tickets were nonrefundable, but I had a feeling that, if they understood our blunder, they would make an exception in our case. Thankfully, they did, and the extra tickets were refunded. If you plan to visit with several others in different vehicles, don't make the mistake we did. 

At Grounds for Sculpture, our first stop was lunch at the Van Gogh Cafe. My friend Adrienne thought I would be enthused about this particular eating option, and she was right. I'm a fan of Van Gogh, and reading the biographical novel "Lust for Life" by Irving Stone, a few years ago, helped me appreciate him more. On a previous visit to Grounds for Sculpture, I had eaten at the Rat's Restaurant -- which seems like the last thing you should name a restaurant -- and that was special to me too for an entirely different reason. It's all themed around "The Wind in the Willows," one of my favorite books from childhood.

Adrienne and I enjoy our lunch in the Van Gogh Cafe.

At the cafe, I felt like I was inside Van Gogh's "Terrace at Night." On either side of the seating area are tiled roof lines. A yellow awning reminiscent of the painting overshadowed the cafeteria line area. The ceiling made one thing of "Starry Night."

I also had my favorite meal of the weekend here, a baguette sandwich with brie cheese, ham and Dijon mustard. This was particularly satisfying after trying a similar panini style sandwich at a different restaurant earlier. I had been a little disappointed since the mustard was skimpy and the brie, my favorite cheese, had been replaced by Swiss, my least favorite cheese.

My friends Iris and Jeannie both tried the bruschetta, and Jeannie was particularly enthusiastic about it.

Below Adrienne and I pose with one of the sculptures that was displayed indoors on the grounds. Adrienne thought we should mimic the figures' poses (and initiated a lot more silliness throughout the day.) This is a Boaz Vaadia sculpture, made up of layers of rock cut to shape. My favorite sculptures were more realistic figures, many based on famous paintings, but when you consider this unique method, this more simplistic figure is quite impressive.

Below is one of the first outdoor sculptures we saw.

Do you see a deep meaning in this odd piece of sculpture? Who knows what esoteric thing was in the mind of the sculptor. I like the cute and whimsical sheep and shepherd, but this loopy thing with a human head looks like some sort of cryptozoological creature. I'd like the sculpture much better without the Mt. Rushmore/snake hybrid, but the loops did give us fun frames for our faces.

This man in the yellow was just too rude. I mean, honestly, I know he has his girl there with him, but couldn't he pass the bread? Or say "Hello?"

This was outside one of the eating areas, the Peacock Cafe, at Grounds for Sculpture. Even the lacy green metal chairs look like pieces of sculpture. This sculpture of the dining couple makes me think of an Impressionist painting, but I can't place which. Many of the sculptures on the grounds are 3D models of famous paintings.

In this same area, a little ways from here, another sculpture of a nude woman was sprawled at our feet. I spoke to her, saying, "Are you in any distress? Do we need to administer CPR?" As I looked up, I saw another visitor to the grounds smiling comically at my comment. I don't always let out my humorous side so spontaneously, but it's nice to be with friends who know you well and still like you ... and who aren't afraid of some silliness themselves.

Adrienne poses like a fountain at a fountain in the Water Garden. We visited the grounds on an extremely hot day, so I was grateful for this cooler area and wanted to jump into every fountain we saw. Some misters did help cool us down.

We admired this lady in the mist, and then we saw that she is a fountain too. It may not be obvious from the photo, but there is a trickle coming out beneath her. When we saw that, we giggled and passed on.

Adrienne and I are both fans of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," so she told me I must dance with this dryad which may belong in Narnia. So, I did.

And she joined me.

Iris had a wonderful look of anguish while posing with Edvard Munch's "The Scream." You'll notice that he is concave. We were inside a small structure here, and his convex form was visible on the other side of the wall.

Many of my favorite areas were indoors in the main building, the Seward Johnson Center for the Arts. Here is another tribute to Van Gogh in a 3D reproduction of "Bedroom in Arles." It was so interesting to be inside this painting with its bright colors, thick outlines and slightly skewed shapes. I felt like Mary Poppins who had hopped into a chalk pavement picture. "Chalk pavement pictures? I ask you, and highly questionable outings of every other kind!"

Jeannie posed very prettily with the "Mona Lisa," and Adrienne posed sweetly with Mona Lisa's guard.

Don't they make an adorable couple? Mona Lisa had a guard on either side of her. The other looked rather serious, but this one had such a lively gleam n his eye.

I posed with "The Girl with the Pearl Earring."

I said "Oh, pardon me," when I walked into a room and saw this lady, a replica of Eduouard Manet's "Olympia." Jeannie tried to point out the flowers that her servant offered, but she didn't seem very interested.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day. The Water Garden, a few trees, a trellised walkway and an ice cream break at the Gazebo made the heat more bearable. Be prepared with cash at the Gazebo. They can't take credit or debit cards.

I'd recommend a visit to Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey if you are in the area.


  1. Hi Susan!
    The Grounds for Sculpture looks so cool. I love how you can interact with all the art. Looks like a really neat place. You mentioned your favorite cheese is Brie. I've never had Brie but I want to try it. I've only read about it. Is it a creamy cheese or harder cheese? Is it mild? Just curious. Hope you have a good rest of your day!

    1. Thanks Diane. It was a lot of fun. Brie is a creamy cheese with a hard rind that is edible. I think it's a mild cheese, but the rind has a stronger taste. I've known some people who only like the center. It's firmer when it's cold, but it will soften at room temperature and be spreadable. You can also bake it. There are some recipes for baked Brie wrapped in Phyllo dough with dried cranberries or other fruit. I hope you have an opportunity to try it. :)

  2. What a neat place! I am definitely putting it on my New Jersey bucket list! I used to visit New Jersy to see my great aunt and great grandma, they lived near the beach, but I haven't been in years. Other than to Hoboken when I lived in NY, but even that was some time ago. Anyway this looks like a fun day out, love the Van Gogh ceiling! :-)

    1. Thank you, Steff. It is a neat place. We actually went to the beach, Seaside Heights, that same weekend. I live in the northern part of the state. I hope you're able to see Grounds for Sculpture yourself some time. :)