Press Releases

Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art exhibits the whimsical yet haunting sculptures of Grace Bakst Wapner


Grace Bakst Wapner, Scholars' Garden XI, 2004 Clay 12 x 16 x 8 inches

NEW PALTZ -- Grace Bakst Wapner’s reflections on spirit stones (Chinese Scholar’s Rocks) is the inspiration for her upcoming exhibition, A Scholar’s Garden, at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at the State University of New York at New Paltz. Grace Bakst Wapner: A Scholar’s Garden opens on January 23 and will be on view through March 16, 2008. A reception for the artist will be held on Friday, February 8 from 6-8:00 p.m.

Wapner will be exhibiting 12 clay sculptures based upon her contemplation of natural forms and the ancient Scholars' Rock tradition in China. Since the Han Dynasty the literati of China began collecting fantastic geological forms known as “scholars' rocks” for religious or aesthetic purposes and then to decorate gardens and courtyards. These unusual stones were the precursors to the “found object” where nature is the artist. Especially prized are stones that have been sculpted naturally by processes of erosion or that appear to have been shaped by nature. Pitted, hollowed out, and perforated, such rocks, which are often displayed on end, are seen as embodiments of the dynamic transformational processes of nature, many resembling animals, birds, mythical creatures, human figures, mountains, caves and subterranean paradises (grotto heavens) believed to be inhabited by immortal beings.

Grace Bakst Wapner, Scholars' Garden VIII, 2003 Clay 22 x 9 x 10 1/2 inches

A Scholar’s Garden is a beautiful yet haunting exhibition of clay sculptures that, like scholars' rocks, take on a sense of animism – each piece appearing to have an active spirit whether in semi-abstract form or as an identifiable object. The sculptures appear surreal yet whimsical in a rather strangely provocative manner – suggesting a world within a world.

Sara Lynn Henry, in a video by Gert Stern comments on Wapner’s pieces..”This is so different from the kind of art that is created as post-conceptual object out of information that is simply shuffled around, either in a space as in installation or across the surface of a work as ideas off a computer screen. It is just so wonderful to have something that starts from within the material and moves out.”

Grace Bakst Wapner has shown extensively in galleries and museums in New York City, Chicago, Wisconsin, Arizona, Massachusetts, Indiana, Ohio, and Connecticut. She has been the subject of numerous articles and reviews appearing in The New York Times, NY Arts, Art Forum, The New Yorker and books such as Women in American Architecture and Overlay: Ancient Images in Contemporary Art. Wapner was commissioned to create the Woman of Vision Award by the National Association of Women. She is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture.

Family Day at the SDMA - Saturday, February 2 from 1-3:00 p.m.
Share a special day with your young ones at the museum. This program combines an interactive, guided museum visit to A Scholar's Garden exhibition, and various art activities. It is designed for children aged 5-12, accompanied by an adult. Reservations are required - call the museum educator, Judi Esmond at (845) 257-2331.

About the museum -
The Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art is dedicated to collecting, researching, interpreting, and exhibiting works of art from diverse cultures. The permanent collection spans a period of almost 4,000 years. Areas of specialization include 20th century paintings and works on paper, Asian and Pre-Columbian art and artifacts, metals and photographs. SDMA has a special commitment to collecting and exhibiting important works of art created by artists who have lived and worked in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions. The Museum is a major cultural resource in the Hudson Valley serving a broad-based constituency from both on and beyond the New Paltz campus.

Hours: Tuesday - Friday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 1-5 p.m.
Admission is free
Wheelchair accessible
(845) 257-3844

If you are a person with a disability who will require special accommodations please contact Amy Pickering at 845.257.3844
no later than one week before the event.