TOUCHSTONES
An invitation to sensory exploration, joyous discovery, and deepening connection.

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Brian Carey

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Brian Carey

How does your perspective change based on your location in or around the sculpture? Brian Carey, a landscape architect, is one of the original artists involved in GFS. Observe all that is present here: the trees, the stone, the wood, the water, the concrete, the people, the red chairs, the grass, the insects in the grass, etc. See how organic and inorganic materials come together, how harmony and dissonance exist between them. Observe the bubbling water. What is bubbling up in you? Look to the smoother surfaced water. What pool are you more like today?

Movement: Where are you most drawn to sit or stand? Go there. Breathe. Observe yourself and the environment. Where are you least drawn to? Go there. Notice what has changed perspective, body, and breath-wise. What happens when you sit facing the “wrong” way? Explore what shifts. Move to another location and another and another.

Writing: Write a letter or song to change personified. How can the fleeting be embraced? What is your relationship to transformation? How does one recognize the temporary even in the company of the ancient? Can steadiness be found in uncertainty and flux? Push against how you ordinarily write. Sweep away the expected. Stretch into the unconventional, into newness. Play with the whitespace upon the page. Begin with the words, Dear Change…

Aqua Libra by Lila Katzen

Aqua Libra by Lila Katzen

What can touch convey that words cannot? Who are we when connected with others? Consider how the sky-reaching trees of this grove communicate through a mycelial network in the soil. Notice the disparate elements that come together in the sculpture. Note where there is stability and fragility in their union. Consider the work’s simultaneous wholeness and fragmentation.

Movement: Take in the group of Dawn Redwood trees. Observe their relationship with one another and the sculpture. Notice the contours, asymmetry, and negative space of Aqua Libra. Beginning at the sculpture, weave your way through the surrounding trees. Let your path be determined by the breeze on your skin, or the songs of the birds, or the patterns of visible roots. Let your arms ribbon, twist, and feather in the air as you travel. Alternatively, visualize the path you would take.

Writing: Consider the welding of the sculpture. Note the intentionality of having the viewer perceive how the jagged, asymmetrical stainless-steel pieces are brought together. Create a short piece with visible weldments – let the stitching be shown. Let the last line of the first stanza/paragraph be the first line of the next stanza/paragraph. Let the last line of that stanza/paragraph be the first line of the next stanza/paragraph. Continue this pattern for at least three stanzas/paragraphs. Let the final line be a repetition of the first line of the piece. You can change the repeating lines slightly (tense, pronouns, a word or two, etc.) if you need.

Arch II, Set II by Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas

Arch II, Set II by Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas

How is there distance in closeness? Notice the proximity of the arches to one another. Notice their similarity. What opens and closes because of how they are positioned? How do you navigate misalignment with those closest to you? Are there paths to connection through that terrain? How do you recognize your own patterns or habits in relationships? What supports you when making changes?

Movement: Go to one of the nooks of the sculpture. Make some sound there. Notice the echo. Feel the vibrations. Find a spot in the grassy area. Explore echo through your body. Create a gesture or short movement pattern. Echo it in another area of your body. For example: If your gesture involves your head and arms, what would it be in your hips and legs or your knees and elbows, etc. Create at least three echoes of your original movement.

Writing: Take in the sculpture and the area surrounding it. At the top of your page quickly write 20 words that come to your mind from this location (e.g., concrete, curve, joy, opening, roses, echo, etc.) These words are now your word bank. Create a 14-line piece that incorporates at least 14 of these words. The title must be a question, each line should be no more than 12 syllables.

Damascus Gate by Walter Dusenbery

Damascus Gate by Walter Dusenbery

How is there distance in closeness? Notice the proximity of the arches to one another. Notice their similarity. What opens and closes because of how they are positioned? How do you navigate misalignment with those closest to you? Are there paths to connection through that terrain? How do you recognize your own patterns or habits in relationships? What supports you when making changes?

Movement: Go to one of the nooks of the sculpture. Make some sound there. Notice the echo. Feel the vibrations. Find a spot in the grassy area. Explore echo through your body. Create a gesture or short movement pattern. Echo it in another area of your body. For example: If your gesture involves your head and arms, what would it be in your hips and legs or your knees and elbows, etc. Create at least three echoes of your original movement.

Writing: Take in the sculpture and the area surrounding it. At the top of your page quickly write 20 words that come to your mind from this location (e.g., concrete, curve, joy, opening, roses, echo, etc.) These words are now your word bank. Create a 14-line piece that incorporates at least 14 of these words. The title must be a question, each line should be no more than 12 syllables.

Dancers by Alexander Rutsch

Dancers by Alexander Rutsch

What brings you to life? What animates your very being? What myths delighted you as a child? What folktales made you think that anything was possible? So many cultures have stories starring anthropomorphized beings. Observe the sculpture. Track what sensations come up in you. Notice the body language between the two figures. Consider their airiness, the lift to their frames, their connection to one another.

Movement: Imagine your body is made of wood. How would it feel to have sap running through you, to have bark for skin, to be the home of so many, etc. Join in the dance of the sculpture. Move as if you know the next steps to the routine. Let your limbs be like the figures’ segmented ones – composite but connected. Play with isolation, jumps, levels, lunges, volume. Feel free to be silly. Find joy and pleasure in the marvel of your locomotion.

Writing: The sculptor Alexander Rutsch was influenced by multiple arts movements including Dadaism. Arising out of early 20th century Europe, Dadaism challenged expectations, convention, and power structures. Rich with wit, irreverence, abstraction, and subversion, it informed visual, literary, and performing arts. In the spirit of Dadaist poet, Harold Ball, create a poem without words. Write down sounds. Embrace onomatopoeia and whimsy. Play with rhythm. Experiment with how meaning might be made. Read your work aloud (even if just to yourself).

Ex-halations by Linda Fleming

Ex-halations by Linda Fleming

Where do the mundane and the multiverse intersect? How might we, as artist Linda Flemming asks, “give form to the intangible?” What is the relationship between sensation and understanding? What is the physicality of space? How might multiple realities simultaneously exist? Is the past truly in the past? Notice the presence of time’s influence on the sculpture in the form of rust. How does the everyday-ness of the bed affect your experience of the other figure and visa versa?

Movement: Imagine a halation – a bright ring that surrounds – around you. Inspired by the patterns of the sculpture, fill the area of your forcefield with curving spirals. Give shape to the space. Play with contradictory qualities existing at the same time in you. How can something be both heavy and light, solid and airy, symmetrical and individual?

Writing: Inspired by the sculpture’s title, Ex-halations, write a double nonet poem about breath. The shape of your poem will resemble the hour-glass appearance of the sculpture. Center your text on the page so that the shape can emerge (i.e., not left justified). For the first stanza, the first line is 9 syllables, the second is 8 syllables, the third is 7 syllables, the fourth is 6, etc. all the way down to 1 syllable. In the second stanza, do the reverse. The first line is 1 syllable, the second is 2, the third is 3, etc. all the way up to 9.

Forth by Mary Shaffer

Forth by Mary Shaffer

Consider the metal core of the sculpture. Consider your own core. What gives you structure and support – in your body and in the world around you? What allows all else to emanate forth from you? Notice the ways each of the four sections of the work is unique. Consider how the granite connects to the metal. How the stone tapers upward while being firmly planted to the hill.

Movement: Connect with your spine. As you are able, round your back and then arch it. Gently twist side to side. Breathe into that sensation. Connect with both the stability and fluidity of your back. Place yourself in one of the quadrants of Forth. Reach your arms upward while remaining firmly grounded. Bend your knees. Create more extension, then release. Trace the contours of the stone into the air. Move as you are inspired.

Writing: Divide your page into four quadrants with a small circle in the middle. In the circle, write down an event. In each of the four quadrants, describe the event from a different perspective. Let the voice for each quadrant be unique. Let the texture of the sculpture inform your exploration. Write without stopping for at least 7 minutes.

Infinite Life by Kang Muxiang

Infinite Life by Kang Muxiang

What does a beginning look like? What about a beginning that is also a continuation? What of legacy? What is reclamation? Is there liberation found in the process of reinvention? How can life be infinite? How might it spiral into itself – finding multitudes in its folds and interiority? Consider the compactness and compression of the sculpture. Consider how far it would stretch if unwound.

Movement: Scan the body of the sculpture. Follow the path of the coils around the figure at least two times. Situate yourself in the area at a middle distance from the work. Beginning at a singular point on your body – perhaps the tip of your hand or the top of your head – start wrapping yourself in an invisible coil drawn with one of your fingers. Let the coils be tight, the distance between them close. Continue this until at least 25% of you has been wrapped in this invisible cable. Come to a point of completion and stillness. Scan your own body.

Writing: Infinite Life is made from a single recycled elevator cable. Formerly, it was part of the elevator system of Taipei 101 – one of the tallest buildings in the world. Keeping your pen continuously connected to the page, write a piece of flash fiction about something finding a radically new and different life just as it is about to be discarded. Let the challenge of never lifting your pen from word to word and line to line inform your story. Let that tension come into the struggle of metamorphosis and rebirth. Write for at least 7 minutes without stopping.

Just Chillin' by Mike Gyampo

Just Chillin' by Mike Gyampo

How does letting go of expectations challenge and/or delight you? Are there practices you engage with to help you embrace change? How can one remain a life-long learner? Stand in front of the sculpture. Connect to your breath for a moment. Spend time taking in the work from this spot. Notice the curves, bends, center opening, color, texture, and material. Slowly walk around stopping at each side. What has changed? What remains? Connect with shifts in your body.

Movement: The artist, Mike Gyampo, has described Just Chillin’ as representing a girl kneeling on grass. Our bodies are full of folding parts. Our knees and elbows hinge, our eyelids open and close. Our organs fit within us through complex patterns of layers and folds Explore folding movement. Begin at one point on your body and move out from there. For example: begin with your fingers’ articulations, then add your wrist, your elbow, your shoulders, your neck, etc. Create multiple folds at the same time. Embrace a spirit of discovery. See what opens, what is made possible.

Writing: How do you chill out? When do you feel most relaxed? What does making time for yourself look like? Create a list poem. Title it Methods for Just Chillin’. List at least 5 ways that you like to unwind/rest/relax and short descriptions of at least 5 times you have attained that coveted state. Consider numbering each item of the list or just leave a line brake between every one.

Leviatano (Nebula) by Michael Shewmaker

Leviatano (Nebula) by Michael Shewmaker

How do we come to know ourselves through reflection? What mirrors do you look to? How do you discern when a reflection is distorted? How do we reflect back to others? Consider the vibrant energy of the sculpture’s open spiral. Notice the multiple surfaces of highly polished stainless steel that each provide a different dynamic perspective.

Movement: Move around the sculpture. How many reflections of yourself can you see at once? Notice the variety between them, the different ways they twist, curve, and invert. Notice how reflections appear and disappear based on your location. While viewing your many reflections, create a battalion of Leviathans – sea monsters – through your movement. Let your gestures be large and fluid, connect with your strength, power, and intensity to embody such colossal and fierce creatures. Be bold in your playing.

Writing: A nebula is a giant cloud of particles, gases, and dust in space. Some of them form from the remains scattered after the explosion of a supernova. Others are where new stars form. Observe your many reflections in the sculpture. Write yourself as one of these star nurseries. What are your particles? How is such a bright new being formed, birthed, and stewarded by you? How are you vast and expansive? Draw an amorphous cloud shape on your page. Write following the line of the shape, spiraling inward towards the center. Repeat on following pages if you need more space. Continue for at least 7 minutes.

Linden Tree by Isaac Witkin

Linden Tree by Isaac Witkin

How do we honor nature’s infinite variation and genius? Consider the organic shape of the sculpture. The uniqueness of each component, the elongated curves and vertical stretch. Consider the organic shapes in the surrounding trees and plants. A significant work, Linden Tree was the very first sculpture “installed” in the park. Isaac Witkin was one of the original artists involved in the earliest days of Grounds For Sculpture. Imagine all that has transpired here, all that has grown since then to bring you to this very moment.

Movement: Witkin used an experimental technique of pouring molten bronze onto sand to create improvised shapes. The result of this innovative process can be seen in his many works at GFS. Explore fluidity in movement. Connect both with the sculpture and with the water behind it for inspiration. Move continuously for 3-5 minutes. Let one movement be the catalyst for the next. Repetition is welcome. Find flow. Breathe into and release any stagnation or self-judgement. Instead, connect with all the flowing waters within you.

Writing: Linden Trees have been considered sacred by many since ancient times. They are associated with attraction, gentleness, warmth, and peace. Herbalists work with them to support nerves, sleep, and digestion. The heady sweet blossoms and leaves have long been used for divination and spells. Write a love or protection spell. Create a list of materials needed, the procedures involved, and the wishes of the spell. Conjure away!

Mary by Brooke Barrie

Mary by Brooke Barrie

What is your relationship with mystery? With the past? With relics and remains? How can we come to sit quietly with that which is no longer fully present before us? How do we lean into the implied, filling in assumed details? Notice the tension between the positive and negative space of the sculpture. Consider the delicacy of the bronze, the way its solidity is paired with airy thinness.

Movement: Mary lies upon a greenery-enveloped pedestal at the very center of the park. This location honors the profound impact Brooke Barrie has had on Grounds For Sculpture. She was the inaugural director and curator of GFS in addition to being one of the original artists involved. Recall someone that you hold in the highest esteem. Someone that you admire deeply. You do not have to know them personally. Spell their name out through movement. Use your whole body. Perhaps trace the letters into the air with your elbow, knee, or chin. Or write in the grass with your heel or shape your entire body into letters, etc. Honor them with gratitude.

Writing: Notice how the sculpture is complete in and of itself yet can easily be perceived as a fragment. Fill a page with a single block of writing. Let each line stretch across the entire page. Write without stopping for 5 minutes about something that haunts you. Take three cleansing breaths. Create an erasure poem. Find a poem in the lines of your text by blacking out or erasing at least 60% of the words.

Teatro XI by Herk Van Tongeren

Teatro XI by Herk Van Tongeren

How does our breath change when encountering something that seems impossible? What freedoms are found through letting go of the need to immediately make sense of something? What opens to us in the wonderfully strange realm of dreams? How can we access and explore the musings, impressions, and messages of our subconscious minds while waking? How can the surreal liberate our many layers of conditioning?

Movement: Examine the sculpture from a variety of locations, heights, and angles. Situate yourself wherever you feel most intuitively drawn. Take three deep cleansing breaths. Gaze softly upon the sculpture. Let your conscious mind quiet. Be led by your body’s direction. Stay in a natural flow, welcoming movement when the impulse arises, greeting moments of stillness and suspension with equal enthusiasm. Allow yourself to be astonished by what happens.

Writing: In addition to having been a talented sculptor, one of the original artists involved at GFS, and Executive Director of the Johnson Atelier Technical Institute of Sculpture, Herk Van Tongeren was also a set designer. Imagine Teatro XI as a stage. Write a scene for a play that occurs in the world of the sculpture. Have one of your characters begin at the stairs, another on top of the sphere. Explore the surreal – juxtapose images/ideas/elements that you would not ordinarily. Include the refrain from your favorite song as a line. End the scene with a surprise.

The Sleep by Autin Wright

The Sleep by Autin Wright

How does the body change with tiredness and the approach of sleep? Where do you feel the release of your muscles and thoughts? What slows down and opens when we enter this realm? The Nap Ministry says, “Rest is Resistance.” How does this resonate with you? What nourishes your rest? What stands in its way?

Movement: Dance with your eyes. Blink as slowly as you can. Open your eyes as widely as possible. Look side to side, up and down, make a circle, follow diagonals. Vary speed, intensity, and range. Follow a path through the water garden with your eyes alone. Consider how you have learned new ways to be expressive through your eyes during this pandemic. When you reach a place of completion, close your eyes, and absorb yourself in the information conveyed through your other senses.

Writing: Write a lullaby that tells a story of the sculpture’s sequence. Consider the emotions that just the eye and mouth can reveal. Note that an entire body is not required to convey great meaning. Write without stopping for five minutes. Stop. Fold your text in half along the vertical. Utilizing the text on only one side of the fold, create a new lullaby.

Three Graces by Toshiko Takaezu

Three Graces by Toshiko Takaezu

Notice the uniqueness of each figure. Consider the nuances of their hues, the subtle variations in patterns and textures. Consider the impact of seemingly small differences – here and in your life. Toshiko Takaezu was especially known for creating closed forms. As she said, “you can’t put anything in and you can’t take anything out.” Consider the completeness of the figures, individually and as a group. Imagine what the inside of each figure looks and feels like. Consider your own rich interior landscape. What is only for you? What do you long to open? Recall a time when you felt complete unto yourself.

Movement: Circle the sculpture. Stand in front of and then behind each figure. Linger there. Notice any sensations. Make yourself a fourth figure in the configuration – change where you are situated several times. Note how your perspective shifts. Dance out something that has been sealed up in you.

Writing: The Three Graces, the ancient Greek goddesses Aglaea ("Shining"), Euphrosyne ("Joy"), and Thalia ("Blooming") have been the subject of artists for centuries. Write a character sketch of someone you hold dear as the fourth grace. What quality do they personify? Use rich imagery and metaphor to describe them. If you are inspired to delve into the mythic, please do!

Triad by Elyn Zimmerman

Triad by Elyn Zimmerman

What groups of three are you a part of – in this moment, at home, in community? How is your own body a gathering, a meeting? What are the rough and smooth parts of you? What is lost when something is polished, what is gained? What of you shines and shimmers in the right light? Who are you then? Who are you in shadow? What does your shadow reflect?

Movement: Consider one or more of the above questions. Dance a short response. Repeat your danced response three times. Let each repetition be different in quality – play with speed, size, tone, etc. Try this at varying distances from the sculpture. Try it while moving around the work. Allow for breath and stillness between repetitions.

Writing: Consider the confluence that is you. Write an origin story of how you came together. Let it be as wild as you would like. Include the words three, rough, smooth, and stone. Write for at least 7 minutes without stopping.

Wisteria Pergola

Wisteria Pergola

How many times has shade saved you? How often has its cooling oasis given you refuge from scorching sun? What is the generosity of the dark? Are there ways to reciprocate with that which gives respite and rejuvenation? Can you express gratitude to humble climbing plants? Notice how the air feels different inside the canopy. Notice how life thrives there.

Movement: Wisteria, with its long-life and wildly growing tendrils is a symbol of immortality, abundance, and sensuality. To control and shape its path of growth, gardeners train and restrain it with pruning and vigilance. Connect with a time that your own movement or growth was constricted by others. Breathe into any tension that arises. Release it with a cleansing breath. Before entering the archway, create a simple forward moving movement pattern that you will adhere to for the length of the path. For example, five steps forward, two steps to the right, five steps forward, two steps to the left, etc. While being mindful of others, walk your pattern through the pergola. Embrace the joy of determining your own path as you do.

Writing: This land has had many lives. It has, of course, always been part of Lenapehoking – the lands of the Lenni Lenape people. It also lived for many years as the New Jersey State Fairgrounds. This pergola was built where one of the curves of the horse racetrack was. What is now full of peaceful lush foliage was once marked by pounding hooves. After spending time in the archway, write a piece in any form that begins, “and they’re off…” Write into the spirit that a place or a person can hold a multitude of lives/histories within them.

Yew II by Bruce Daniels

Yew II by Bruce Daniels

How can the contained be expansive? How can we discover and dive into lushness, layers, and worlds within a boundaried space? What freedoms might be experienced within the confines of form? Bruce Daniels – one of the original artists essential to the development of GFS – has included many elements rich with symbolic significance in this sculpture, including a monkey wrench. After finding it, consider other layers of meaning present.

Movement: Think of a symbol that is significant to you. It does not have to have meaning to others, the importance is its value to you. Bring it strongly to mind with as much detail as possible. Notice if anything shifts in your body. Create four simple gestures that connect you to your symbol. Surround yourself with your symbol by performing the first gesture to the north, the second to the east, the third to the south, and fourth to the west.

Writing: Yew II is filled with incredible detail. Spend a few minutes taking it all in, then draw your attention closely to one small area. Let yourself absorb and be affected. Perhaps you notice the moss on the tree trunks, the lighter colored tips of the yew branches, the patina of the monkey wrench, or something else altogether. Write a 5 lined poem with 5 words on each line in praise of the closely examined microcosm you have just taken in. Monkey wrench: The very middle word – the third word of the third line – must be “you.” If you are on a roll, continue writing in this form until you feel complete or have reached 5 stanzas.