Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Side Trip

Took a bit of a side trip yesterday to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to see "The Thinker" at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. If the name seems familiar to you, it is because he built a local grocery store into a major regional chain.

This casting of The Thinker (made in 1904) is on loan from the Detroit Institute of Arts while they do some renovation. Seeing it outside is remarkable, but there was much more. For example, there are two others by Rodin that are part of the permanent exhibit. If you get close, this place (northeast of downtown) is well worth a visit. Afterwards, you can go up to Muskegon and ride one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world or hit the Lake Michigan beaches.

This photo shows the outside setting in context.

The Thinker is contemplating a wonderful Koi pond with a waterfall that hides road noise from just over the berm. Click the picture to view the full size original and look on the left side.

The gardens, besides being in full bloom, had a traveling exhibit featuring "the chocolate tree" scattered through the grounds and in the various indoor greenhouse spaces. (The main sponsor, Dove, gave out complimentary chocolates.) No photos of that, however.

I also cannot show you any photos of the sculptures of Sophie Ryder, which were in two of the indoor museum spaces. No photos were allowed of her wonderfully strange rabbit headed people. This picture shows part of a display banner by the entrance.

The signature piece of the outdoor display is a recreation of a horse sculpture designed and modeled by DaVinci but never cast full size. This one and the one in Italy were commissioned by Fred Meijer.

You do have to see it to believe it, although the people in this photo do help put it in scale.

Personally, I think this sculpture of a giant trowel, perfectly set in a field of native grasses ready to be turned into a garden, best captures the whole concept of blending a large collection of sculptures into a large horticulture garden.

There must be a mile of trails, some leading into garden "rooms" containing themed groups of art.

I'll let a group of them go without commentary, except to say that I included this next one ("Listening to History") because it reminds me of how The Little Professor seems to be so tied to her book collection.

This is not a Calder, but it really belongs here because of the large Calder stabile that is on the city hall plaza downtown.

Hard to believe this collection was assembled by a grocer, isn't it?

There is more than art and gardens. There is a large children's art and activity area near the entrance. It includes some hands-on sculptures, art activities, a tree house, and a recreation of the Great Lakes basin complete with plastic boats.

That is the mitten of Michigan, with Lake Michigan on the left, Lake Superior at top left, and Lakes Huron (top right) and Erie (bottom right). It even has Niagara Falls out of the picture to the right.

Finally, some more sculptures:

This last one is "Torso of Summer", which seems appropriate for the season.


Rebecca said...

That looks like a really cool park! What a wonderful way for Mr. Meijer to spend his fortune.

Doctor Pion said...

And that is only part of the park part of it. There is a natural (meaning restored ecosystem) area that leads to a scale replica of a family farm (complete with animal statues), and a group of medium to huge greenhouses for indoor (mostly tropical and desert) displays.

There is also an amphitheater for outdoor musical performances.