Fruit of the Vine
By: Amy Brummer, TimeOFF Bucks County 07/28/200


Buckingham Valley Vineyards and Winery hosts an outdoor sculpture exhibit featuring works by owner Kevin Forest.

It is not uncommon to see chickens pecking around at Buckingham (Pa.) Valley Vineyards. But this summer, something very peculiar stands out from the flock. Tall and sway-legged with wide hips, monstrous feet and a cinched waist, this beak-faced hen is frozen in mid-strut on the wine shop's pastoral green lawn.
The odd bird, a cast metal sculpture by Dana Stewart, is kept company by an array of large-scale sculptures springing from the ground like well-watered plants. Bold and full of presence, the works range from an angular, fractured spire by Jeff Kahn to a blocky, low-slung tree trunk by Harry Gordon. All part of the Buckingham Valley Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit, on view through Aug. 31, the show also features works from Ray Mathis, Jonathan Hertzel, Phillip Kaufman, Mark Pettegrow, Milan J. Kralik and Henry Harvey.
Organized by Kevin Forest, whose family has owned the Buckingham Valley Vineyards and Winery since 1966, the annual exhibit is in its third year. Mr. Forest, who has three works on view, has in recent years shown his work at Phillips' Mill in Solebury, Pa., the Bucks County Visitors Center in Bensalem, Pa., and the Hicks Art Center at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, Pa. In addition to the show in Buckingham, his piece, "Trinity," is installed on the front lawn of the New Hope (Pa.) Historical Society through April 2005 as part of the New Hope Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit.


A graduate of Penn State University, Mr. Forest majored in business and marketing, which he admits was something of a "backup plan," in case he chose not to continue in the family business.
After college, his job at the winery provided him with a good enough living, and enough free time to pursue his other interests, that it was easy for him to slip back into a life where he was surrounded by family and friends. An avid guitarist and mountain biker, he could move between his duties at the vineyard, which include managing the first phase of wine production from growing to the first crush of grapes, and his other passions. For a time, he even considered a career as a professional mountain-bike racer, but a crushing injury to his hand closed the book on that possibility, as well as on his music.
During his rehabilitation, which lasted several years, his wife signed him up for a sculpture class at Bucks County Community College to give him a creative outlet that would aid in his recovery. He took to it immediately, and after the first year was rewarded with the college's Legacy Scholarship for Advanced Sculpture, which allowed him to continue his studies.


Mr. Forest says it was that recognition, in addition to support from his professor, John Matthews, that gave him the encouragement he needed to keep nurturing his newfound talent. Ultimately, his business training proved useful too, as the enterprising sculptor looked for opportunities to exhibit his work. Undeterred by his frustration in finding few places that show large-scale work, he created his own.
"I was looking for venues where I could get my pieces out more," Mr. Forest says. "As I spoke more with acquaintances and friends, I realized there were a lot of people in the same boat. It seemed like a nice marriage with the winery. We have the space, a mixed clientele, people who are really interested in the arts, as well as people who aren't (interested) at all, which I thought was a real benefit. I think one of the nicest things about doing outdoor shows in public venues is that it makes the art a little bit more approachable to people who wouldn't normally go and interact with it."
He says he didn't feel established enough to approach a place like Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton and at the time, the Outdoor Sculpture Show in New Hope hadn't started yet, so he sought to carve his own niche.


"It is a little different than how other people might curate a show," Mr. Forest says, "in that I look for artists whose work I really enjoy and I ask them if they would like to take part in the show. If they say 'yes,' I say 'terrific, bring a piece or two.' I don't specifically say let me see what work it is or if I like it. I leave it up to them. Part of that is because it is a little more exciting for me, and part of it is that as an artist myself, I do realize that there are times when you may have pieces that you are really excited about, but they may not fit into other peoples' ideas about what they want to put in their show."
Of the three pieces Mr. Forest has in the show, one is a wood-and-metal piece owned by his family that is on permanent display. The others showcase the two styles the artist works in.


One piece, a triangle mounted on an arch topped by a circle, is a fine balance of positive and negative space. In the center of the crowning circle, a green sphere hangs down, floating within the rust-toned structure surrounding it. Mr. Forest sees the bronze element as a symbol for the human spirit — a self-contained sphere that keeps growing as the body around it erodes in the elements. Like the "Trinity" piece in New Hope, it uses the combination of the corroding, milled steel and blue-green, patinated bronze with dramatic effect.
"The steel is deteriorating, basically," Mr. Forest says. "It is oxidizing and breaking down, which is what caused that rusty surface. The bronze is much more durable, it is interacting with the environment as well, but it is doing a completely different thing. It is building a patina. I like it because while each metal is doing a completely opposite thing, they are both coming out with organic, natural earth-tone colors that contrast really well."
His other piece, a towering container filled with river stones, is an example of his other body of work. He fills these massive vessels with natural materials as a comment on the way humans interfere with nature.
"Now those stones are removed from their natural element, which would be running water," he says, "and are stuck in a man-made container, and are no longer doing what they were meant to do. To me it is a large part of what the piece is, man's domination over nature and the need to dominate his environment, and where that leads. I think we are meant to coexist and get along, but sometimes I think mankind is intent on dominating and controlling everything, instead of coexisting."
Mr. Forest gleans his stones from local quarries and explains that the whole process of foraging for them is integral to the work.
"It is amazing," he says, "how you can pick through 1,000 stones and how three or four will speak to you in some fashion. I like to use river stones because there is a history to them. If you think about their shape and texture and form, it took years of running water and interaction with running water to get them to the point that they are at. I want to search through and find the ones that speak to me — it makes it a more personal experience."

The Buckingham Valley Outdoor Sculpture Exhibit is on view at the Buckingham Valley Vineyards and Winery, 1521 Route 413, Buckingham, Pa., through Aug. 31. Hours: Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-4 p.m. For information, call (215) 794-7188.