Kid Appreciates Sculpture By Rolling Down Large Hill Atop Which It Sits
Furiously pedals little trailer bike past famous earthworks
Kina was not quite two years old the last time we went to Storm King—a sprawling Hudson Valley estate whose grounds are peppered with the kinds of massive outdoor sculptures that only seem to fit on sprawling Hudson Valley estates. At the time, she was roughly two feet tall. Mark DiSuvero’s Frog Legs, positioned at the top of a hill at the entrance of the museum, is, by contrast, roughly twenty-seven feet tall. Back then, before the pandemic, potty training, and much of her capacity for speech, she paid it little mind.
I have a theory, informed by this observation, that we tend to ignore things that are thirteen times larger than ourselves. Seven story buildings, for example, are not particularly interesting to the average adult. Small children take school buses for granted. Rats pay us little mind. Somewhere between my height and fifty times my height, I cease to care.
Casual observations of Kina’s interest in outdoor sculpture suggests that her interest can in fact be piqued by objects and earthworks that are at least twenty-five times her size, including DiSuvero’s E=MC2, which Kina called “the big sword” when we revisited Storm King yesterday for the first time in three years. It crept to her attention as we tooled around the campus together on a rented tag-along bike—a normal grown-up bike towing the back half of a smaller kid’s bike. We had, when we visited the little rental shack by the parking lot, asked for a bike with a kid’s seat, but Storm King is apparently too sophisticated for babies, and the attendant shot us the uniquely and unconvincingly disappointed look of a salesperson who is about to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. She brought out this centaur of a bicycle, a liminal being, like a polyp growing out of a coral reef, and Kina was absolutely sold.
It should be said that Kina has not really ridden any sort of bicycle for any meaningful stretch of time before, and so her mother and I were skeptical of the prospect, but we were also skeptical of traipsing around a 500-acre outdoor museum by foot with a child who herself measures roughly 5 square feet—a ratio, if my math is correct, of roughly 21,780,000 to 1. We put a helmet on her, told her never to let go of the handlebars, and headed off down the well-manicured gravel road towards Maya Lin’s Wavefield.
Kina was far more interested in pedaling than in the art, generally, but her fascination with mechanical leverage gave Laurea and me more than enough time to admire the sculptures from afar, periodically stopping to walk Kina up a hill and look across the landscape together. From the charmed looks on the faces of people passing by, Kina’s furious pedal cadence was generally more interesting than the art—but you do tend to get a bit numb to steel beams and taut cables after a while.
Eventually, we ended up back at Frog Legs, and Kina hiked us all up to the top of the terraced hill it sits on. She’d seen other kids rolling down the side of the hill and wanted to give it a try. Without giving the sculpture a second glance, she laid on her side and tentatively turned over a few times, afraid to lose control and careen down the hill into the trees. This felt like a missed opportunity. Remembering my own experience with hills as a child, and ignoring what I know to be less pliant inner ears than she has, I showed her how it was done.
Some twenty vertical feet later, as the world churned around me, I lay on my back with my eyes full of sky and laughed as hard as I have in months. Kina followed shortly, cackling and throwing up dust as she rolled. Laurea, too, eventually made her way down; I watched the video of her giggling two dozen times yesterday—I haven’t heard that sound in a long time.
You forget what it’s like, rolling down a hill. There are many more compelling and important things to do, of course, and the moment we’re in as a civilization doesn’t exactly call for abandoning all control—but I highly recommend it. I wish there were more hills around for Kina to tumble on, and more time to spend going up and down those hills with her. I think I would be happier. I am, today, happy.
That hill wasn’t there when the museum was first built. They’ve torn up and bulldozed the land so many times as new works have been acquired, just to make sure the sculptures are given their majestic due. The hill Kina rolled down is itself roughly the size of the sculpture it bears, which calls into question my theory of biggish things. An exception, then: if you can roll down it on your side and come to rest safely, there is no limit to the size of a fascinating object. I would recommend renting a bike to get to that object, if you can—preferably with a four-year-old in tow.
Today’s Parade is a rainbow being, surrounded by hearts. It is a watercolor.
It has always irked me that the name of this sculpture doesn’t put the 2 in superscript, which I’d like to imagine was intentional, but assume is actually because it’s impossible for an average famous artist (as with most of us) to figure out how exponents work on keyboards.