Ruckus logoThe artwork, Three Chevrons: three large and identical steel fabricated volumes, probably 6” tall, form a series of tidy, intersecting chevrons. The first and last going one direction, and the third, in the middle of the set, going the opposite. They alternate a light blue, and light pink, and stand nearly along in a series of rolling hills in the Kentucky winter.
Above: Victoria Priep, Three Chevrons (2015), steel.

Josephine Sculpture Park


Review
L Autumn Gnadinger


Only a few minutes off of I-64 outside of Frankfort sits Josephine Sculpture Park, which was described to me by people in-the-know as “one of the best-kept secrets of art in Kentucky.” And it feels that way too, as you slowly make your way up the driveway of an old family farm from the quiet, semi-rural section of Lawrenceburg Road. Admission is free, though you are warmly invited to donate cash to several colorful, hand painted boxes near the gravel parking lot. Josephine’s ardent DIY energy won’t be for everyone, and not every sculpture felt equally relevant to our current moment. But the scavenger hunt of slowly walking the land and stumbling upon the truly special, standout works from the ever-changing roster of artists does feel, at times, magical.

Josephine Sculpture Park is more than the sum of its parts. Since its formal founding in 2009, the park has grown into a fully fledged outdoor arts venue with education programming, festivals, internships, and residencies. Its mission begins, “to connect people to each other and the land through the arts,” and at its best moments, you really feel this aim come through. The works that made the biggest impression on me operate in much the same way. I was taken most by works that pulled together disparate formal and material parts, and coordinated with their unique setting on the land.

From afar, Chakaia Booker’ The Conversationalist (1997) seems like a collection of burned logs, confidently organized into intersecting, undulating waves that improbably spring out of the ground. It’s not until you are almost touching it that you notice that the shapes are made up of (or at least covered by) rubber tires that have been cut apart and anxiously reassembled by the use of thousands of metal screws. The nearby text mentions that the sculpture demonstrates “a gradual building of elements that climax at a point of tension or harmony. The form labors to break free of emotional constraints as it pushes towards the sky and comes to a realization.” Walking around The Conversationalist presents an ongoing optical illusion, like a Moiré interference pattern, as the long linear sections of the sculpture dive in front of each other, seeming to briefly conjoin with each other and then separating again a moment later. The material choices also reinforce this interplay: the previously distinct, heavy, and road-bound tires now effortlessly flow into each other and move in uncannily vertical, and diagonal ways.

Felix Culpa (2015) by Nicole Bovasso and Three Chevrons (2015) by Victoria Priep are two other intriguing works that operate by amassing many smaller component parts. Felix Culpa is composed of thousands of hastily organized steel rods, cut and shaped to form a hollow, larger-than-life dress, with arms outstretched in a stiff T-pose. The steel itself has, at some point, been painted an aqua color, which is now being slowly overtaken by rust from its time outside. Around the waist and the cuffs of the form are a subtle fabric lace that has deteriorated and all but fallen completely off. There is a haunted quality about Felix Culpa, and it seems to be actively drawing energy from its partially-wooded setting. The linear branches of the bushes and trees around it, increasingly of similar colors and textures as the sculpture patinas, are optically growing into one another. Perhaps these gradual changes from its weathering outside, into something new altogether, is the “lucky” or “blessed failure” that its name hints at.

Three Chevrons offers more of an abstract, formal exercise, but is no less satisfying to find. Three large and identical steel fabricated volumes form a series of intersecting arrows: the first and last going one direction, and the third, in the middle of the set, going the opposite. Its unnatural and soft colors—a pastel blue and a warm pastel purple—mixed with its sharp and clean construction, generate an otherworldly, highly designed and manufactured look that, when placed within the contrasting landscape of Josephine Sculpture Park, manages to foreground itself far more than would be possible in a build environment or traditional gallery.

Categorically, many outdoor sculptures—including most at Josephine Sculpture Park—trade overt statements for something that feels far quieter, and more eternal. And for some, it might feel like the collection at Josephine Sculpture Park is a little too quiet on the multitude of issues facing our times. But overall, the work finds itself in a beautiful central Kentucky meadow, with brief didactic text on laminated printer-paper, binder-clipped to a rusty metal post in the ground, and honestly, what’s not to love about that? Plus, most of the works in the hodgepodge collection feature the endearing invitation: “OK to touch with respect.” This lack of fussiness and the relative peace-of-mind brought by its outdoor setting and low foot traffic make it an effortless art destination.

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Josephine Sculpture Park is located at 3355 Lawrenceburg Rd. Frankfort, KY 40601, and open “365 days per year from dawn until dusk.”

Notes:

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L (they/them) is an artist, writer, and current MFA candidate at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, PA. They are originally from Louisville, and an editor for Ruckus.
The Conversationalist, but viewed from this angle, it feels especially geometric, like a Moiré interference pattern, as the long linear sections of the sculpture dive in front of each other, seeming to briefly conjoin with each other and then separating again a moment later.

Chakaia Booker, The Conversationalist (1997), rubber tires and wood.  

The artwork, The Conversationalist, seems like a collection of long black poles, confidently organized into intersecting, undulating waves that improbably spring out of the ground. It’s not until you are almost touching it that you notice that the shapes are made up of (or at least covered by) rubber tires that have been cut apart and anxiously reassembled by the use of thousands of metal screws.
Chakaia Booker, The Conversationalist (1997), rubber tires and wood.  

The artwork, Felix Culpa is composed of thousands of hastily organized steel rods, cut and shaped to form a hollow, larger-than-life dress, with arms outstretched in a stiff T-pose. The steel itself has, at some point, been painted an aqua color, which is now being slowly overtaken by rust from its time outside. Around the waist and the cuffs of the form are a subtle fabric lace that has deteriorated and all but fallen completely off.
Nicole Bovasso, Felix Culpa (2015), steel rod and lace.


The artwork, Felix Culpa, and from this view you can tell how close it is situated next to a brush and tree line outside.
Nicole Bovasso, Felix Culpa (2015), detail, steel rod and lace.  


The artwork, Sounds of a Whipporwill, like a large birds nest there is a hut like structure made entirely of thin branches that one or two people might sit underneath. The hut it a kind of pyramid, but the tip, instead of ending in the sky, arcs back around and connects again with the ground 10-15 feet away from the entrance to the hut. It seems from far away like a long dangling elf’s-hat.
Justin Roberts, Sounds of a Whippoorwill (2019). 


The artwork, Of Few Words, which is an assemblage of a long 20-30 foot, by 1 foot, section of black rubber, sandwiched between and suspended in place by two large concrete pipe sections. The concrete pieces are around 4 feet in diameter and 4 feet long, and painted salmon and purple, respectively. Of Few Words rests on the ground alone in a field in winter.
Kiah Celeste, Of Few Words (2020), concrete, rubber, and pigment.


The artwork, Walk the Arc, which consists of 5-6 telephone poles that have been buried at one end, and again 2/3 of the way through, which suspend it horizontally to the ground, and elevated around 20 degrees. They are arranged next to one another in a fan shape, closer together in the end in the ground and farther apart in the end in the air. Alexander Gelderman, Walk the Arc (2019), earth, kentucky fieldstone, recycled pole.