Cattelan’s body of work, in mid air
Today is the last day before Charlotte has her knee operation, so the plan is to make use of our legs and get out of the city. The destination is Storm King, a sculpture park a little over an hour’s drive from Manhattan, where we’ll meet one of Dan’s buddies and take in some epic iron girders. Dan wanders off to pick us up a hire car, so I’m given sandwich and thermos duty. Bizarre though it may sound, I always get a little nervous making sandwiches for other people, as I know that I like mine a little outlandish. I have been known to enjoy a tomato, raw onion and Coco-Pops sandwich whilst sober. And what’s more - I have it *without* butter. Some people, therefore, might be a little bit surprised if I just “make whatever we have in the fridge” because I see that as a challenge. Fortunately Dan leaves me some strong hints as to what he wants to see in his sandwiches, reigning in my more extreme experiments, and we end up with a decent couple of rounds of variations of ham, cheese and homemade pickle.
After a slightly late start to the drive, beset by GPS issues with the three separate devices we have that were going to direct us, we get on our way out to the countryside. It’s been a few years since I’ve done any driving in the US so it’s good to be back whizzing along these open and scenic (once we’re beyond the bounds of the city) roads. It’s snowed recently and there are still piles of white in the shadowed areas on the hills and beneath the bushier of the few evergreens that sit amongst the brown and yellow autumnal scrub and forest.
The scenery is so pleasant that we don’t realise that the police sirens are directed towards us for quite some time. Dan changes lanes to check and I get that depressing sinking feeling that we’re in trouble. This is somewhat tempered by the fact that I’ve seen cop pull-overs so many times in movies that I’m actually also extremely excited to see what happens. The rather hefty uniformed guy genuinely does say “license and registration please”. Dan shows his EU license and in the plummiest, most over-the-top english accent i have /ever/ heard come from his mouth in my life explains that it’s a hire car that we’ve just picked up and how we’re just driving out for the weekend and that we had no idea that we were doing that speed officer and is most definitely very sorry indeed. There’s a long, long pause whilst the policeman weighs up the complexity of processing a foreigner in a hire car who is clearly apologetic, then waves us on with a “don’t do it again”. He heads back to his car and we all exhale deeply.
We get to Storm King eventually, and it’s clearly the kind of place that fits well in a country that has far too much land. According to their website they’re spread over around 500 acres of fields and woodland. It’s a sculpture park where the primary material is massive iron girders. The average height of a sculpture is probably about 15m or so. It specialises in large-scale abstracts, so a large proportion of them aren’t really up my street. Fascinating to look at for a while, but I certainly wouldn’t buy them. Some look vaguely like figures from certain angles, but really the overwhelming thing about them is ridiculous size. The air is crisp and cool but we’re blessed with glorious sun which is definitely bringing about the best in these sculptures.
We meet up with Dan’s buddies and their two little kids, and after hitting one kinetic sculpture with a hammer (designed to make a truly enchanting noise that rings for ages) we navigate the swampier parts of the fields at child pace and polish off lunch. Then, given our differing walking speeds, we three carry on to make a circuit of the further pieces, leaving the kiddies for dust. Charlotte’s a little on the melancholy side but at least we’re making the most of this last day of mobility. Around the far side of the park is one of my favourite pieces here - a simple but modern dry stone wall made by an artist called Andy Goldsworthy that snakes through the forests and sinks into the lake. I’ve not been in European climes for quite some time now, so the sight of this very British craft is surprisingly heartwarming. It certainly feels very out of place in America.
Home is via a factory outlet complex where Dan I pick up new coats, then we head back to the city for a truly amazing chinese meal. Near the McCrum residence is a Grand Szechuan that serves the most incredible soup dumplings. I’ve never had these before, but they’re a taste sensation. Made with a glutinous paste, when these dumplings are steamed the paste melts back into soup but doesn’t breach the pastry container, so each dumpling is a little ball of fiery hot joy. If you ever see them, order them.