Art unfolds beneath autumn skies in SculptureNow's "REMIX" at The Mount in Lenox
LENOX — On a glorious fall day, skeins of geese flew noisily over Edith Wharton's grand Lenox estate, The Mount, practicing their migratory formations. Seated on the terrace below, Berkshires artist Ann Jon took stock of the approaching final weeks of the annual juried outdoor exhibit presented by SculptureNow that she has spearheaded for 18 years, first at south county venues from Lee to Great Barrington, and for the past four years at the Mount.
"It's my passion, from both sides of the table," said the Danish-born sculptor of over four decades, "as an exhibiting artist with all kinds of experiences that have shaped me, and also organizing, curating and working with artists in a way that I have learned is the way to do it."
In this year's show, "REMIX," running through Oct. 31, nearly 30 works by 27 artists are thoughtfully placed throughout the Mount's expansive grounds. Some greet visitors as they walk or motor down the driveway; others wait to be discovered along paths through shady woodlands and across grassy lawns.
Each sculpture stands alone in site and style, made from diverse materials such as wood, stone, metal and resin. One piece is cut from the wood of a single fallen tree; another is an aluminum double helix. Jon's own sculpture is created from dyed fishing net and copper.
In "Three Graces," Jamie Calderwood redefines classical imagery with an intertwined metallic trio of pointed oval outlines. Peter Dellert has reproduced on a giant scale a speckled blue Murre bird egg tied around the middle, the distinctive tapered shape designed by nature to prevent it from rolling off a cliff.
Not all works are what they seem. The glowing rainbow "stained glass" of Robin Tost's "Navajo Sunset" is, in fact, painted metal from scrapped cars, while Sue Huang has set dozens of cut mirrors within the contours of trees to reflect surroundings and create the illusion of holes (some were prudently removed after a woodpecker perceived a rival in the reflections).
Throughout the season, over 250 local students view the show, guided by artists in small groups. While many of the sculptures reach out artistically to viewers, 16 students from the North Eastern Association for the Blind were encouraged to reach back during a special hands-on tour of 10 selected artworks. Afterwards, they were given an object to recreate in clay, an art project Jon plans to adapt for sighted students wearing blindfolds.
The collaboration with The Mount was originally suggested by then-board chairwoman Lila Berle, who also is on the SculptureNow board. Displayed works were chosen from 60 to 70 submissions by artists from Canada to New Orleans.
"It's always a challenge to get the sculpture here without spending all your savings," Jon explained. This year, a donor's $10,000 matching grant helped artists transport their work.
About half the exhibiting artists are well established. Most are new to the show, and a handful return each year after reapplying to the selection committee.
"We want the variety, different artists who present different ideas," Jon said.
Submissions must meet strict criteria, she added; they must be creative, ideally innovative, able to endure five months outdoors, be securely installed and safe for visitors of all ages with no sharp edges or points.
"It's a wonderful juxtaposition of contemporary art against a classical and extraordinary landscape," said Mount executive director Susan Wissler. "I love the fact that we have such a variety of materials, and it's been an education for me to see how [they] speak and react with the landscape."
The Mount, she explained, is committed to developing programs for people of different abilities.
"Natural beauty and creative beauty is graceful and transformative, and we want to share it with as wide an audience as we possibly can," she said.
Wissler believes Wharton would have approved of the show, given her keen interest in the arts and enduring friendship with renowned sculptor and Berkshires neighbor, Daniel Chester French. Wharton also wrote several short stories in which art collecting is key to the storyline, including "The Daunt Diana" about a man obsessed with owning a particular sculpture.
With all the SculptureNow artworks for sale and a few already sold, soon some canny collectors will possess their own piece of modern Mount creativity. Last year, a collaged scrap metal tree created by Pittsfield High School students sold, with all the proceeds going to help the art department.
That was a really happy ending, Jon said.
What: "REMIX." Outdoor show of large-scale sculptures by 27 artists from Canada to New Orleans
Where: Edith Wharton Restoration, The Mount, 2 Plunkett St., Lenox
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Oct. 31
Admission (house & grounds): $18 (adults); free (age 18 and under)
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