It's hard not to be a bit skeptical of specialized travel guides, such as Art Travel Guide: Must-See Contemporary Art Sites Across the USA, released this May by Connie Terwilliger. How soon before this information is outdated? Why did Terwilliger choose this location and not that?
Yet it seems Terwilliger — surprise — knows what she's talking about. She could be an art historian with her impressive familiarity with and understanding of the subject. For one, she recommends earthworks like Michael Heizer's "Double Negative" in Nevada, Walter De Maria's "Lightning Field" in New Mexico; museums like Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art (known for its Henry Darger collection and "room"); events like the Pageant of the Masters; and projects like Watts Towers and Coral Castle, built by highly driven, deeply mysterious, and usually lone, artists.
Those looking for traditional artwork won't find much in this guide. It's not all serious, minimal art (see the cover for proof), but Terwilliger focuses on modern and contemporary fare, skipping big institutions that most guides recommend in favor of smaller, off-the-beaten-path types, like Dia:Beacon of Beacon, N.Y. Having been there once myself, I can say it's not for the faint of heart: It's respectable and challenging collection includes works by the likes of Joseph Beuys (the reason for my visit), Richard Serra, John Chamberlain and Sol LeWitt. Of Dia:Beacon, Terwilliger writes, "This museum is heaven."
Aside from the highly designed Frank Gehry spots, Terwilliger favors places like Dia:Beacon, which are refurbished factories converted to museums. Not only are these places huge — Dia clocks in at 240,000 square feet — they are also usually home to the most unconventional artwork. See her choice of destinations: MASSMoCA, The Mattress Factory, City Museum and PS 1.
While the book design is friendly, and built to take the beating of travel, some of the images are a bit fuzzy and the writing comes with a fair share of errors. (Not a big deal, just a disservice to the effort that obviously went into her research.) Those aside, thanks to this book I'm now deeply intrigued by the Franconia Sculpture Park in Minnesota. This new-to-me attraction is home to Melanie VanHouten's, "Reclamation," a beautiful and bittersweet work consisting of a shack raised by cables off the ground, preserving, it seems, the skeletal memory of a childhood home.
Buy the book here.