Mark Dion Fuses the Built and the Natural Worlds at Storm King
“The joy of being at Storm King is the joy of being outside,” says artist Mark Dion, whose Follies, a series of highly diverse structures from a glass menagerie to a truck that serves as a mobile laboratory, are scattered throughout the Hudson River Valley art center’s 500 rolling acres. For the exhibition, on view through November 11, Dion intentionally set his creations within different parts of the landscape. For instance, The Dandy Rococo is a hunting blind clad in wetland reeds sited on a small peninsula overlooking Storm King’s ponds. Grotto of the Sleeping Bear is a stone-and-tree branch cave built into a natural concavity in a wooded area to look as if it had always been there.
“Mark’s practice is about humans’ relationship to the natural world,” says Storm King senior curator Nora Lawrence. “It’s a perfect connection to show his work here.” Located 60 miles north of New York City, Storm King has seen its visitorship triple over the last decade, due in part to the area’s growing popularity among artists, and as a weekend retreat. Dion himself left Manhattan behind a few months ago to move nearby. He also sourced many of the objects that populate his follies, including tableware, cigar boxes, and antlers, from local vintage stores. “A big part of my process is shopping,” he says. “I can’t delegate that.”
Dion’s follies are also very architectural, and the artist has worked with a number of well-known architecture and landscape firms including Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, James Corner Field Operations, and Weiss / Manfredi. “Mark’s work at multiple scales and across multiple disciplines reframes how we see and depict the natural world, bringing into productive tension the relationships between art and science, the artificial and the natural,” says Michael Manfredi, who first collaborated with Dion at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, where the conceptual artist inserted a sloped greenhouse encasing a 60-foot-long nurse log. They are currently working together as part of a team of finalists on a competition scheme to reimagine the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles.
The Storm King exhibition features works created by Dion over the last 25 years, and modified for this occasion, as well as a new site-specific piece entitled Storm King Environmental Field Station. For Dion, the exhibition is significant because visitors can see the follies all together for the first time. (The show will later travel to Laumeier Sculpture Park outside St. Louis.) The enchanting yet instructional works, juxtaposed against the monumental sculptures on permanent display by such artists as Mark di Suvero and Richard Serra, is also a chance, according to Lawrence, to address Storm King’s ecological ambitions, as the institution evolves.