Tales from the "Circle Museum"
Hello kind readers! Lest you think I've disappeared into the ether of the Great Recession, well...let us think again! The fact is, the time has slipped by us in this most globally warmed autumn of 2009, and many events have kept us busy. So even if this posting reads "September" (which is when I intended to publish it), it is truthfully written now in the throws of November, while looking back at the events of this summer. Now I hope you enjoy, since it has been such a fruitfully long hiatus.
This summer, I had been driving through the small town of Austerlitz in eastern New York state, near the border of Massachusetts. Austerlitz, for all its charm, has a rather unfortunate name, for some it conjures up a place of ill-repute and atrocity (it is in that first sounding Aus-), yet its real namesake is in the Battle of the Three Emperors, and involved a great victory for Napoleon, which took place in 1805 on the grand fields of what now is the Czech Republic. I recall once taking a train from Prague to Budapest, and stopping in the small city of Brno. As the train rolled out of town, I looked over these very same fields, very peaceful at that moment, and had the thought of imaging how warfare two centuries earlier in that very field was so formative to European and world-wide politics.
Well, the fields of this Austerlitz of upstate New York were quite different. Here I discovered in this sleepy drive-by of a hamlet that there were two interesting and note-worthy stops for the curiosity seeker. And both of these places are very fine artistic and poetic locales for the spirited soul. First, we have the "Circle Museum," located at the crest of a little hill, near a bump in the road of a state highway, which I nearly missed completely, if my car hadn't such good brakes. After pulling off into a parking area, I jumped out of my car, unlocked a little gate, and walked into a world of rolling fields enveloped by a pine forest, which went on far beyond my general visibility. But what was both amazing and of course attractive to me was the innumerable modern statues and sculptures, which had been scattered about the property. And this is what made up the "Circle Museum." (Above is a donation box with a little message from the owner and proprietor). As described on one website (vimeo.com):
"The Circle Museum is a registered Columbia County Museum consisting of over 100 large-scale works of sculpture. In this location for 25 years, Bijan Mahmoodi is the owner of the museum and the artist. His art reflects his fascination with hard-to-find Industrial Era fabricated metals and bronze casting. Inside the artist's studio, also on the property, is a collection of Bijan's oil paintings that explore the circle motif you see in most of his sculptures. Why is it called the Circle Museum? Bijan explains... "Because our planet is based on the circle - the sun, the planets, the moon and life itself is cyclical. The circle is what inspires me." The Circle Museum (or 'Bijan Sculpture Park') RD1 Box 183B Rt. 22 Rd. Austerlitz, NY 12529"
So those who are interested, go visit Bijan and his circles!
Here is the studio of Bijan--his paintings and other works of arts can be seen in this very bohemian living space.
Of course, of course, isn't the point to find a book somewhere!? Well, I found one of the most wonderful poses I could ever find here at Bijan's studio. It was a book placed finely on what looked to be a paint bucket. And I took the photo through a fine old single-paned window. Artistry, I tell you!
The next few photos are of Bijan's Sculpture Park (aka the Circle Museum). You can see the fields and the great variety of his work, which is rather remarkable. I did see the artist, when I visited. And discovered that he'd come to the US decades ago from Iran, around the time of the Revolution. He's been here ever since, and has plied his artistic wares upon these almost hallowed grounds with care and tempered subtlety. "Enjoy," he said as I roamed about and he lurched away to another project of circularity.
The World Stands out on Either Side...
This line from Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay is both formidable and legendary in literary circles, though likely more legendary and notorious in high school English classes. For it was in one of my own high school English classes that we were obliged to memorize a dozen or so lines from this poem. It transcends the delightful scale and is still enjoyable for me to recite. Though, as I've come to discover, (such is always the case!--and so too I'm finding with many of Goethe's works) this work was written when dear Edna was but a young lass, knee-high to a grasshopper, something less than 20 years of age. Of course, Mozart was churning out tunes that would "pinch the heart" (to use Millay's turn of phrase) when he was still nursing. Now to my little surprise, I discovered this road sign in Austerlitz, not far from Bijan's World.
So, for some thirty years, Millay spent time in a house a few miles up beyond this sign. Interestingly, and so warmingly perfect for my blog, I discovered that the log cabin of a post office in Austerlitz (see images below) contained books either belonging to Ms. Millay or that she had written (or both!) In one, there is an inscription from Millay to a friend. I must admit, this was one of the greatest literary fly-bys I've ever come across. It's almost like stopping in a little tavern outside of London, and discovering some missing pages from the Folios of ol' Will behind the bar! (Oh, come on people, laugh!)
As I was staring at this display case of fine Millay-iana, an old woman scuttled in, got her mail, looked at me, said "g'mornin'," and scuttled out. The Millay stuff was old news to her. I couldn't help but be delighted by it all though.
Above is a signed book by Millay. And below are some other items along with a photo of herself, caught pensively staring into the woods.
Above is the old post office with the Millay accoutrements. Below is a barn on the property of Millay. The home, which is near the barn and located a few miles up the road from the post office, has been converted into an artists' retreat center.
Now, if any of you want to "stand out on either side...," whether in the world or elsewhere, you too can make a pilgrimage to Steepletop, the poetic refuge in the woods. You may not become as famous or notorious as Ms. Millay, you may not even have your divinely or affair-inspired poetry read and memorized by hoards of pubescent, pimpled, procrastinating teens, who will slurry your masterpiece into a jumble of early morning recitation for an "A-" grade. But what you may do or have is a mystical experience in the woods, far from any of that nonsense. And you will be able to enjoy the serenity of nature.