Like so many sophisticated adventure-seekers before us, we were driving around Cattaraugus County, admiring the cows.

There’s a whole lot of ’em.

Restaurants, movie theaters, gas stations, people…not so much.

Eventually, a small sign told us we’d arrived in East Otto.

Apparently, we’d passed through West Otto, and Central Otto, without noticing.

Soon after, my cellphone found a signal again, and could pull up a map.

We discovered that we were southeast of Bagdad, Gowanda, and the Zoar Valley.

And due east of Persia.

Strangers in a strange land.

I hadn’t known our state had these outlandish places, in such a pastoral setting, but I liked the idea of eating cheese from such exotic locales.

Bagdad Brie, Persian Pecorino, Gowanda Gorgonzola.

And yes, as you may have guessed, we’d gotten off the interstate, decided to go home cross-country, no GPS, and were a bit lost.

The endless herds of Holsteins were the only familiar faces we’d seen.  It’s possible we’d seen some of them more than once, as we zigzagged around.

The roads wandered through pastures, woodlots, little hills. We passed an old guy cutting hay, wearing a wool plaid jacket in August, and as we went around the bend, and up a little hill, we realized there was something strange about our surroundings.

There were no cows to be seen.

No cows whatsoever.

Finding ourselves in a landscape totally vacant of cows made us uneasy.



And then, as we came over the rise, suddenly there were strange metal objects — tall, mysterious, like alien totems, as if we’d entered the territory of some weird cult.














There didn’t seem to be any roadblocks manned by the Children of the Corn, so we kept driving, and found we’d driven into the Griffis Sculpture Park.

A rusted but fantabulous remnant of an ancient but very groovy time, called “The Sixties”.




The wonderful man who created this place was named Larry Griffis, Jr.

He came back to Buffalo after serving in WWII, and started a business making nylon stockings.

During a visit to Italy, he fell in love with sculpture.

I saw a picture of him on the internet, and he reminded me a bit of Van Morrison.  His son, and now granddaughter, have kept his workshop in Buffalo going, and the park in East Otto is now hundreds of acres of fields, ponds, and woods, full of sculptures, by Griffis and other artists.




Some are pretty literal creations, like this giraffe, peering into the woods.











Or this giant mosquito.












The woods are full of meandering paths, with abstract creations scattered about.





A pond is surrounded by flying metal geese, and rusted obelisks, which resemble small cellphone towers, as woven from rebar by a cargo cult — some overgrown, some toppled over, and merging into the undergrowth.

A shrine-like creation, marked “Santana,” held an offering of a dozen half-eaten acorns.





What the world needs now…Peace, Love, Rust-Oleum.





Statues and shapes are cast in bronze and aluminum, but most seem to be weathered and rusted iron.

One group resembles chess pieces, another, industrial elements.










We’d arrived quite a distance from the main entrance, where a series of fields and woods harbors some hands-on creations, that you can climb on, and in.
















My favorite resembles the conning tower of a submarine, surfacing in a meadow.












My snapshots only show a fraction of the collection.  You could easily spend the better part of a day, hiking around and discovering things.
















Some of these creations, as the day got close to sundown, seemed a bit spooky, even foreboding.


















But the overwhelming vibe of the place is of whimsical creativity and happiness.






So long for now, from atop the conning tower, surfacing somewhere in the Summer of Love.











Pictures were taken with an iPhone 5s.  The Griffis Park really isn’t that remote, it’s less than an hour south of Buffalo, and half that driving north from Salamanca.  Take a GPS with you. Hugs to the cows.
















1960's, 1970's, Art, NY, Public Art, Sculpture, Upstate New York

Pictures of Upstate New York. August. A marvelous place for a moondance.


30 thoughts on “Pictures of Upstate New York. August. A marvelous place for a moondance.

  1. What a weird place. I bet you’re glad you didn’t come across it late evening, when the shadows of these incredible artworks would have played strange tricks on your eyes, quite possibly sending you mad. You might never have made it back home.

    • 🙂 Mostly the park’s works seem pretty playful, but some pieces definitely have an uncanny look to them. There’s a full moon tonight, I think, but too far away, or I’d be over there, to see what comes to life in the moonlight!

  2. I love this post! I’ve heard of this park but don’t know that I’ll ever get there, so thank you for sharing it. If you ever get to Kenosha, there is a small sculpture park along the harbor that is quite fun.

    • So glad you enjoyed it! I’m sure it’s a Mecca for artists, and it’s really not that far from the Thruway or Buffalo. My sister is going to college in western Penna., so I’ll probably be driving down there a few times.
      I taught in a Milwaukee school for City Year, and got to Madison and Chicago a couple of times, but didn’t have a car, so I didn’t visit Kenosha. I’d like to get back to Milwaukee and visit a bunch of places in Wisconsin.
      I really wish I lived closer to the Griffis park, it would be very cool to see it in the moonlight. I’m going to see if I have any good pictures from the Storm King art center, south of Newburgh just back of the Hudson Valley, they’ve got some fantastic things, too, a lot of them on a monumental scale.

  3. This is a fabulous post, and your title’s a reminder of another time, another place, and some equally quirky people. I was having dinner one night in St. John in the US Virgin Islands when there was a great flutter in the crowd, and a woman dressed like a down-at-the-heels Greek Muse breezed in. It turned out to be StarHawk. She and some friends were on their way to an old sugar mill to have a ceremony under the full moon. I’m sure dancing of some sort was involved: hence, the evocative nature of your title.

    Speaking of evocative, that second sculpture reminded me of Matisse. And, given what we’re experiencing post-storm, I’d say the artist used a life-sized model for the mosquito. Combine the mosquito with the cargo cult-like items, and I’m reminded of Paul Theroux’s great book, The Mosquito Coast. If you haven’t read it, you’d love it.

    Finally, the seventh photo from the bottom reminds me of The Key Sculpture (Klícová socha) by Czech artist Jiří David. Formally installed on March 9, 2010 in Prague’s Franz Kafka Square, its 85,741 metal keys pay tribute to pro-democratic demonstrators who silenced governmental leaders by jangling their keys in the middle of the square.

    Now I want to go see this place for myself. It’s great!

    • I love “down-at-the-heels Greek Muse” !!!! Had to look up StarHawk, very interesting.
      I’ve heard of “The Mosquito Coast” ok it goes on my list to read, thank you.
      The north end of the Griffis farm was deserted when we were there, but at the main entrance, we ran into two families — the grownups were returning after years, because they wanted their kids to experience the place. I’ve got to get back there on a full moon

  4. Well, that’s fascinating! So much so, I went and had a look at it on Google’s panoramic thingies (y’know, the little spots on the streetview maps). I like the humorous ones best, but I also want to know where the cows got to… maybe they were just hiding. 🙂

    Btw, one day I’m gonna figure out how to navigate properly through your blog. Is it my imagination or are the post titles below each post instead of above them? If not, I think I may have just had a brain fart…

    • I remembered why the titles are like that.
      When I post a regular article, the title stays on top. Sometimes I switch the article to “Image,” because then WP automatically puts up a nice colored background, based on the colors in the first photo. Unlike you, I stink at colors, so this is a really nice feature. But then WP sticks the title on the bottom.
      If you see three horizontal lines at the top of the page, next to the magnifying glass, it takes you to some kind of index page, and you can see if there’s any topics that sound interesting.

  5. What a great find, and what a great time you obviously had exploring this place. I’d never heard of East Otto, so I looked it up on Google Maps: the picture accompanying the map showed one of the pieces in the sculpture park. It’s in a part of the state I’ve never been to, so I think a visit is in order the next time I get back to New York.

    • Glad you stopped by, thanks for commenting.
      Storm King (south of Newburgh) is probably the most famous sculpture park in the state, as I’m sure you know, the large-scale “wow” factor, but Griffis really has its own small-scale charm. I hope your travels take you there, I know you’d really appreciate it. It’s definitely in the boonies, but Ellicotville isn’t too far away, kind of an upscale mini-ski town, a bit too pricey for me, but some good restaurants. And only an hour from Chautauqua, which always has interesting lectures and concerts. (Gosh, I sound like a travel agent, don’t I. 🙂 )

      • To tell the truth, I wasn’t aware of Storm King, which I just looked up. Maybe I can blame my ignorance on the fact that I haven’t lived in New York since the early 1970s. One more place to see on my next visit.

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