In the News: Easter Island on the Hudson’s Creator Passes Away

easter4

Ted Ludwiczak, the artist behind a  fun art environment, Easter Island on the Hudson, passed away on May 25, 2016, he was reportedly 90 years old. I had written about Ludwiczak briefly when talking about the Hudson River Valley Art Environment Trail, here. Of all the places on the trail, his was the only one that was actually located directly on the Hudson River.

easter1

Ludwiczak, immigrated to America from Poland when he was 29 years old in 1956. He had a optical lense grinding business for the next 30 years, retiring in 1986. Two years later, in 1988, inspiration struck him and he started carving faces into the rocks found on the beach along the Hudson.

easter7jpg

Every face is different. Most are happy. He started chipping away using the blade from a lawn mower, but ultimately transitioned into using power tools. As it stands currently the outside of his house is littered with hundreds of these carved faces. They are not nearly as big as their namesake Easter Island Moai, but there are just tons of them all over the place in his front, back and side yard. Ludwiczak’s property butts up to the Hudson and there are more rock heads along the shore for boaters to enjoy.

easter5

Last fall I had the chance to visit his house. It was raining outside when I showed up and knocked on the door. Ludwiczak popped out and happily granted me permission to walk around his yard. Typically, in these situations, I like to talk to the artist a bit, but it was nasty out and I didn’t feel like hassling him. . It was a true pleasure walking around the yard; the sculpted smiles were infectious. You couldn’t help but smile back.

easter2

Most of the environments I have visited have been around many decades and the builder has long passed. However, I have been lucky to meet several artists still building up their yard. With that being said, a large portion of environment architects are old timers. Many times, like this situation here, the artist started building after retiring from their day job. I have been now to three environments where the artist has gone off to folk art paradise after I have visited (and just to clarify, I am not murdering artists). This includes, Hamtramck Disneyland and Glenn Stark’s environment, both of which I have yapped about in this blog. Hamtramck Disneyland has recently been saved by an art collective (hell yeah, that is so great!), Stark’s statues were taken off his property and the city moved them to a local park.

easter6

At this point, I have no idea what the future holds for this place. I hope that either Ludwiczak’s family or some art organization, like Kohler, steps in to preserve the place. But I really don’t see that happening. This was a pretty obscure site, and it never received the notoriety and appreciation that some other sites have. It would be too easy to auction off the faces and sell the property. So get your asses up there before it is too late. I will keep you posted.

So, here’s to Ted Ludwiczak, a self-trained artist, who in his later years for reasons completely his own, decided to gussy up the already beautiful Hudson river, by adding a few hundred more pretty faces and helping to make this world a slightly better place. Cheers!

easter3

How to visit:

This is probably time sensitive. I am writing this in late May 2016, and who knows how much longer this info will hold true. Easter Island on the Hudson is located at 14 Riverside Ave, Haverstraw, NY, about a little over an hour drive north of NYC. It is on a residential street right along the river. Most of the statues can be seen from the street. I am not sure if they want people tramping through his back yard or not, but there is plenty to see from the front. If you have a yacht, you can drop anchor right outside his back yard.

Get going while the gettin’s good.

In the Area:

South of Haverstraw is New York City, a large wide-awake apple. There is a lot to do in New York City, it is an amazing place filled with some of the world’s most renown restaurants, night life, cultural institutions and museums. But honestly, I am more interested in what you find in the boonies, so skip it and head north instead.  There are some great museums and offbeat attractions in the Hudson River Valley.

 

About an hour north I recommend heading to the DIA: Beacon. The DIA is high-concept meta-art (art about  art) at its most artsty artyness. If there was an 80s movie set in the DIA: Beacon everyone would be clothed in black and wearing berets. Housed in an old warehouse everything, all the art, is huge. See the photos above for an idea. If you are a fan of the land art movement you will poop yourself in astonishment. It has pieces constructed by land art luminaries Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer (see the boulder in the wall above). Before heading there you have to read the Yelp reviews, they are hilarious, either people adore it and find it to be brilliant, or think it is ridiculously pretentious, or believe it  to be the dumbest museum ever. Personally, I absolutely loved this place, because they are all correct, it is a beautiful mix of brilliant, pretentious, and dumb.

There are two other nearby attractions I didn’t make it to, because as I mentioned previously, it was pouring outside. They were both very high on my “to see” list, and it means I have to head back out this way. I cannot personally vouch for ’em, but they look pretty awesome.

13096857284_2dce871b9e_h
Bannerman’s Castle lit by the first warm sun of late winter, 2014” by Peter licensed under CC by 2.0

First, there is Bannerman Castle, a deteriorating military surplus warehouse/ castle. It sits on an island in the middle of the Hudson and you can book a tour of the island.  I guess you can’t actually enter the castle as it is in pretty bad shape, but still looks like a pretty great opportunity.

5705258358_2267bcb595_b
Storm King Art Center NY 2610” by bobistraveling is licensed under CC by 2.0

The other is the Storm King Art Center. It is a large outdoor sculpture park and is reportedly one of the biggest and best in the country. Seriously, go to Google and search, “best sculpture parks in America”, and open every dumb travel list of the best sculpture parks in America and it will be on that list.

And, if you haven’t already, please check out my dumb list about the Hudson River Valley Art Environment Trail, because there are some terrific ones nearby.

Advertisements

There Must be Something in the Water: The Hudson River Valley Art Environment Trail

Some areas are ripe with art environments. I’ve already mentioned in previous posts that Wisconsin, the California desert and Kansas all have a sizable population of known, established art environments. Keep in mind that four or five art environments over a 200 mile range is a veritable bonanza. Many states, including Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and Kentucky have only one or two existing, documented, environments in the whole state. Of course, there may be a few more lurking about, just not well documented. This is why it is so exciting that in just over 100 miles, as the crow flies, in New York State, there are at least six art environments in small communities neighboring the Hudson River. It is really beyond me why there are so many environments in such a small area of the New York countryside.

The Hudson River runs through Eastern New York, roughly from the Adirondack Mountains down to NYC. If you start in the big apple and head north, you hit one small town after another and the area is really breathtakingly beautiful. Be prepared to be overwhelmed by quaintness, fudge shops and trees. This trail would make for a killer one or two day road trip from either NYC or the New England area. If you turn this into a trail and hit all six sites, you will cross the Hudson a few times and the majority of the drive is on curvy country roads, off the interstate, so you really get a great view of the surroundings.

I plan to go into more detail for each environment at some point and pinpointing other cool stops along the way, but for now here is the short of it, starting in the south and heading north.

Hudson2Easter Island on the Hudson – 14 Riverside Ave, Haverstraw, NY

Located roughly 40 miles north of Manhattan, you find Easter Island on the Hudson. As the name implies this environment butts up right to the Hudson river and like its namesake in the Pacific, it is chock full of giant stone heads. This site was created by Ted Ludwiczak (born in Poland in 1927). His front and back yard are swimming with faces carved into large boulders. This is private property and not a museum or tourist attraction. Be respectful. We knocked and Ludwiczak was super friendly and gave us permission to wander around his yard.

Hudson3Wing’s Castle – 717 Bangall Rd, Millbrook, NY

65 miles northeast of Haverstraw, crossing the mighty Hudson, you will find Wing’s Castle.

A terrific homemade castle built by Peter Wing and his family. Sadly, Peter Wing passed away in 2014; however, his wife and son are still working on the castle. They offer tours of the place seasonally and also run it as a bed and breakfast.

Check their website for hours.

The next two sites are about 45 minutes away, nearish to the town of Woodstock. A little trivia for ya – the famous Woodstock hippie-sex-fest was not actually located in Woodstock, but was 45 miles away in Bethel, NY. This does not mean that you will not see old people wearing colorful wizard garb wandering the streets of downtown Woodstock – plan accordingly.

Opus 40 – 50 Fite Rd, Saugerties, NY

Opus 40 was built over a 37-year period by artist Harvey Fites starting in 1939. This place is incredible and has quickly found a spot on my top ten art environment list. It falls somewhere between folk art environment and land-art/ earthwork (basically, it is a little “artsier” than the typical environment). It is not made up of a bunch of little sculptures, but is really just one super giant, understated sculpture that you can walk on. This place is not to be missed, it is really like nothing else. Opus 40 operates as a museum, with posted hours, gift shop and admission fees. They do close for the winter, so check their website for the latest times.

Hudson6Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture – 3930 NY-28, Boiceville, NY

About 20 minutes west of Opus 40, you find Steve Heller’s Fabulous Furniture, a  furniture store with a gaggle of whimsical sculptures made out of welded reclaimed materials out front. Heller’s sculptures include robots and giant strange vehicles. The store is open 9-5, but you can easily see all the statues on the front lawn anytime during daylight hours. We happened by early in the morning before they opened. Check out their website.

Hudson9Taconic Sculpture Park – Stever Hill Rd, Chatham, NY 12037 (some places the address shows up as Spencertown, NY)

About a one hour drive northeast of Opus 40 you cross the Hudson again and make your way to Stever Hill Road in Spencertown. At the end of a dirt road is the residence of artist Roy Kanwit, who has covered the front yard and hilly side of his property with some really terrific and strange sculptures made out of marble and cement. The site is open on weekends seasonally and is located on private property. This place is a little tricky to find so make sure to use the google map at the bottom of this page to help plot out a path.

Hudson9bThe Circle Museum – 10985 Route 22, Austerlitz, NY

Only a ten-minute drive from the Taconic Sculpture Park you will find Bijan Mahmoodi’s Circle Museum. Mahmoodi has slowly been filling up his property over 25 years with welded abstract sculptures. Technically open year round, if the gate is open during day light hours you can venture inside. There is a donation box by the gate and if he is around Mahmoodi may invite you into his studio to see his paintings.

All in all, this is a cool art trail through the New York countryside. I have just covered the art environments in the area and have not even begun to detail all the other interesting museums and old, dead rich people mansions/castles, that you can explore in the area.

Go buy a new car, you have a lot of driving to do.