Omi offers sculpture where the sky’s the limit

TIME FOR A WALK! Columbia County offers all sorts of venues for peregrinations, from the urban tenor of Warren Street to the woods of High Falls, near Philmont, to the forests of Austerlitz.

And the Fields Sculpture Park at Omi International Arts Center, 1405 County Route 22 in Ghent. I’ve enjoyed the Omi fields several times in the last three seasons, first by clopping around on snowshoes in a blizzard and most recently on a sunny hayride in June, when the 2011 Annual Exhibition opened with seven new works.


The Sculpture Fields are literally that, 60 acres broken up by wetlands, a pond and wooded glens. In addition to trees and wildflowers and water, the eye feasts on contemporary sculpture, some 80 pieces, collected since the site opened in 1998. As always with abstract work, it’s important, I find, just to go with it; see what you see and don’t worry; use your imagination, but don’t think too much.

My favorite piece is “Illumination I” (2006) by Michael Somoroff — huge, white, two stories high. It’s constructed of fiberglass, lime cement and pulverized marble, but I wish I hadn’t looked that up; to me it’s ice, a yawning cave that in the winter suggested the mysteries of the Arctic and in spring provided shelter for unfazed wanderers during a sudden shower.

Of the new pieces, “Memorial to a Marriage” (2002-09) by Patricia Cronin is unusual, and beautiful, in its naturalism. Tucked into the woods, it’s a rendering in bronze of a female couple, slightly over human scale, lying in an embrace. In a typical Omi materials contrast, “Boys Cry Too” (2009) by Orly Genger, was created from 80 rolls of mountain-climbing rope, painted in primary colors and then laid flat, in varying designs, for 100 yards on the lawn that stretches out from the Visitors Center.

I could go on, but you should see the place for yourself.

On Sunday, July 17, Omi holds an open house. From 1 to 5 p.m., the public is invited to tour the studios of the international artists who are in residence there.

This Saturday, July 9, at 6:30 p.m. Architecture Omi opens “Augmented Reality: Peeling Layers of Space Out of Thin Air.” This event requires a smart phone with the Layar app, which you can download at By pointing your iPhone or Android at the sky, you’ll be able to see virtual pieces by seven architects “installed” in the fields of Omi.

This will be really cool, I’m sure. And Omi offers public programs year-round that I’ve enjoyed–talks and readings and music, in addition to a variety of experiences for children, all described at

But should you wish to just take a walk, you can do that too. The site is open, free, during daylight hours, and this summer the Charles B. Benenson Visitors Center and Gallery is open Thursday through Sunday. Come when you have time an hour or more to explore, with the help of the colored-coded map. Bring a picnic — there are plenty of tables. On weekends you can buy a delicious lunch or snack at the café in the Visitors Center, which offers lovely views of the fields through its glass walls.

Or, stop by if you have only half an hour and just want to refresh your eyes. You can borrow a bike, or a golf cart, if you need one. Even the mundane looks more beautiful — more sculptural — after some time at Omi.

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