reesa marchetti,columnist

In Rural Alloway, Sculpture Blooms

Sculpture Garden in Alloway, N.J.
In rural Alloway, sculpture blooms

©Today’s Sunbeam
Staff Writer

SculptureALLOWAY TWP. — Instead of the fruits of the earth, Daniel Gantenbein grows the fruits of his imagination in his field on Commissioners Pike here.

Massive, geometric forms carved out of marble, granite and shaped steel, line the path that winds around his four-acre lot.

An award-winning international sculptor who has pieces on display at the Japanese Stone Museum, Gantenbein settled in Alloway 10 years ago in order to create his own gallery. His Ironstone Sculpture Garden officially opens to the public next weekend with a reception starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

The garden containing 30 pieces also features works by Casey Schwarz and David Tothero. Gantenbein said he will not be charging admission, because his purpose is to display the sculptures — to both casual admirers and potential buyers.

“I’ve showed with galleries, and as a sculptor, it’s hard to find suitable exhibition places,” he said. “I got tired of lugging pieces around to galleries — most of my pieces are heavy and not that easy to move around.

“I knew I could show it well here — it’s wonderful to see sculpture in the context of nature. If it stands next to a tree and makes sense, I think you’re doing all right.”

According to Gantenbein, having sculpture in public view allows people to see the world from different perspectives. He said that the county has few such objects.

“The cow and cowboy at Cowtown are about the only public sculptures we have around here,” he said. “and the chicken at Fisher’s.”

SculptureAlthough those long-standing rural characters are nothing like the abstract pieces that Gantenbein shapes, he considers the cow, the cowboy and the chicken to be works of art as well.

The Swiss-born artist said that since his move to Alloway, he has usually kept a few sculptures around his house or barn, but he just recently started to organize them.

“People have been coming already to see the sculptures,” he said. “They stop in from time to time. Some people drive up because they like it — they think it’s exciting.”

What attracts their attention, most likely, are the two objects along the roadway. One, which Gantenbein shaped out of antique metal farm implements, looks like a deer’s head with antlers sitting atop a pole. The other is a bright red and blue cubelike piece with triangular points at the top — Gatenbein says it’s a fox.

When people drive up to his house, they can leave their cars to walk a circular path cut out of a wildflower meadow, bordered by weeping willows and surrounded by cultivated farm fields. All along the path are the sculptures, some towering overhead, others closer to the ground.

Each piece had to be installed on its own foundation, Gatenbein explained. He pointed out a hoist that he and his friends had devised to move the heavy statues into place.

Gantenbein has lived and worked around the world since leaving home at age 16. He studied art in places as widespread as New York and Japan. The Japanese experience left a lasting impression on the sculptor.

“They split stone a different way. That’s why I wanted to go there,” he said. “It’s a different philosophy of working stone with a different visual effect.

“Sculpture is a universal language.”

During a tour of his barn-turned-art-studio, Gantenbein showed some of the work he has done in wood. His house, which is simplisticly modern inside, contains many of the pieces, carved out of exotic grains.

The artist said that for now, he wants to concentrate more on the stone works he has done for the garden.

“It’s outdoor sculpture,” he said, “meant to be seen outdoors.”

Posted in Published articles by Reesa Marchetti.