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Dale Graham, Trunnion II

SKOKIE SCULPTURE

getaway-chicago logo Along very busy McCormick Boulevard from Dempster to Touhy in Skokie, Illinois there is a unique sight to see if a motorist dares to skokie1take his or her eyes off the road, which the Getaway Guys do not recommend. It is the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park and it has been there for 20+ years. Winding its way for two miles along the west side of Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District’s sanitary canal (sounds disgusting, but really isn’t), this distinctive park was developed in the 1980’s for cyclists, joggers, picnickers and for the installation of large scale sculptures, with the sculptures being the idea of Lewis C. Weinberg, then C.E.O. of the Fel-Pro Company (which happened to face the park on McCormick Boulevard). Mr. Weinberg was an avid supporter and collector of contemporary sculpture and before he died in 2008, he saw this otherwise useless piece of land transformed into something worthwhile and pleasurable.

skokie3skokie2The idea of a site dedicated to large scale, contemporary sculpture may have originated at the Strom King Art Center on the Hudson River in New York State in the early 1960’s and by large scale Neil and Alan mean sculpture too big for 99% of all living rooms and/or most backyards. And to accommodate not just one, but many requires and expanse of land, which a former Rockefeller estate at Storm King made possible. In the Chicago area there are several devoted to such sculpture, but two of the most impressive are the Manilow Sculpture Park at Governor’s State University, University Park and the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Unlike the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park (SNSP), these contain permanent collections donated by individuals. skokie4The SNSP has a number of works donated by Mr. Weinberg and his family, but the majority of the sculptures are on long term loan from individual sculptors and they are for sale. This, provides not only a special opportunity for the public at large to see and enjoy the imaginative ideas of recognized and emerging artists, but a chance to collect at the same time.

Twentiech century masters of large sculpture, such as Henry Moore, David Smith and Andrew Goldsworthy, aren’t represented, nor are icons of public 19th century sculpture (Augustus St. Gaudens, Daniel Chester French or Lorado Taft). Concepts and materials have skokie5changed. The use of marble and bronze are virtually passé, replaced by steel, fiberglass and other materials that not only transcend the limitations of marble and bronze, but also offer a new take on universal themes around since the Egyptians and Greeks expressed their beliefs about life ( and its ambiguities) in stone and metal.

The works in the SNSP are a mixture of figurative and abstract. The former are probably less complicated to understand, while the latter may leave viewers wondering. Titles give some hint as to meaning, but viewers are essentially left to their own imaginations when interpreting the pieces. August Rodin’s “Thinker” is an iconic sculpture familiar to almost all, but what does it mean? Out of its original context it “means” a lot of things to many people. Rodin’s “Thinker” is a figure centrally located above his majestic work, “The Doors of Hell” where “The Thinker’s” thoughts have practically nothing to do with later interpretations. skokie6The Getaway Guys are often baffled by the intent or “message” associated with particular works of art. A bunch of cows near a river and titled “Bovines on the Ohio” by so and so is easy on the brain, but something like the iconic classic “Homage to a Square” by Josef Albers (1888-1976) demands further thought.

Over the years the number of works on display at the SNSP has fluctuated, as well as the identity of the sculptors represented. Some familiar pieces have disappeared, while others appear to be installed in perpetuity. Some may have been sold and others may have been withdrawn for exhibition elsewhere. One of the interesting aspects of the SNSP concept is its evolving nature as new pieces are added.skokie7 A number of the represented sculptors are recognized Chicago area artists, while others reside and work in other locales. The selection process is competitive and open to all, a process that takes place every two years.

As usual, the Getaway Guys were split in their opinions. Neil favored the abstract works and Alan leaned toward the figurative pieces. Neil admired “Trunnion II” by Dale Graham, “Circinus” by Drew Goerlitz and “Dry Run” by William Wareham. Alan got into “Reverie” by Shelia Oettinger, “Fairy Circle” by Mark Chatterley and “Charge I and II “ by Ted Gall.

For this getaway destination use a bicycle or your feet. It is close by and costs nothing. See SNSP’s website at http:/sculpturepark.org for more images and additional information. February 2013

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