Wednesday, May 28, 2014
visit to opus 40
I made it up to Opus 40 in Saugerties the other day after wanting to go for years, ever since I first heard about it- a sculpture park carved out of a bluestone quarry by a single man over most of his lifetime. In 1938, Harvey Fite, a sculptor of wood and stone, found the abandoned quarry on 12 acres in the middle of the woods. He bought it and built his house and studio on its edge.
From his first experimental impulse — to see how the Mayan building techniques could be adapted to Ulster County bluestone — he began to develop a plan for an outdoor sculpture gallery, carving ramps and walkways leading to his various sculptures. The landscape, originally conceived as a setting for sculpture, became a sculpture in its own right. Though Fite was not associated with the Land Art or Earthworks movement of the 1970s, he came to be known as a pioneer. (Some of this info is taken from their website.)
Opus 40 was named so because he expected that it would take 40 years to realize his vision and complete the work. 37 years after beginning the project, Fite died from an accidental fall onto the rocks. The sense is that he could've kept working as long as he could wield his tools. There is also a small museum on the site full of these mostly hand-forged tools, massive chains, winches, hammers and chisels. It was a very peaceful spring afternoon spent climbing over the rocks and walking the paths, the stones warm and rough beneath my feet. Then driving into town and walking the half-mile out to the historic Saugerties Lighthouse and back- a trail that appears and disappears with the tides.