On a partly cloudy Labor Day weekend, we drove to rural New Jersey. After passing through Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, we arrived at our destination, a pastoral heaven with corn fields, small towns, farms, dairy cows, luscious gardens, and farmer’s markets.
As I scanned the peaceful fields looking for signs of life, my attention was drawn to a colorful cow at the edge of a pasture. It was the most unexpected place to find a statue in the middle of nowhere. I could see a tall hill in the distance, an extinguished volcano whose caldera is now filled with the water of a huge lake.
To say that this is was serendipity on a day that was turning drizzly, it is an understatement. My husband stopped the car and I had to walk through knee-deep grasses in my sandals to photograph the unusual open air exhibit consisting of one ornate and artistic ox, staring at the country road. Unanswered questions swirled in my mind. Who would place a fiberglass cow in the middle of a pasture? It was evident that the artist had spent a great deal of time to create his highly ornate cow with a whimsical name.
As we reached Pennington, New Jersey, more artsy cows with creative names popped in the most unexpected places, a bank, a visitor’s center, a museum, a garden center, businesses, and a day care; a theme and a purpose emerged.
Hopewell Valley Arts Council had organized The Stampede Outdoor Exhibition from August 15 through October 19, 2014, turning the entire area into an outdoor museum that exhibited 68 fiberglass oxen. Originally white, these oxen were painted, drawn, collaged, armored, and decorated by local artists. An online auction will open September 19-October 19 to bid for some of the oxen on display. A live auction and gala will be held at the Grounds for Sculpture on January 24, 2015. Proceeds from the select auctioned oxen will go to the development of the Hopewell Valley Arts Council. http://www.hvstampede.org/
Because some of the exhibits are delicate, exposure to the elements requires temporary removal and repair. There is a map guiding visitors to each exhibit displayed around the township. It is so much more entertaining and fun for kids and adults, who follow giddily the marked numbers as a “treasure hunt.” The oxen have fanciful names such as Jersey Strong, Beaux Vine, Think Inside the Ox, Ox Populi, Ox Nouveau, Van Gox, Cointreau on the Ox, Newton, and Babe the Blue Ushi.
This is America that I love, creative, bold, artistic, colorful, thinking outside the ox, and down to earth.