The Town of Saugerties has many fine features that make it special, but arguably only one thing that makes it truly unique: It’s the home of one the world’s most impressive examples of what is now known as Land Art or Earthwork Art, the 6.5-acre bluestone wonder Opus 40.
Sculptor Harvey Fite’s masterpiece, 37 years in the making, predates the 1970s Land Art movement of which Robert Smithson is the most famous exemplar, but it is regarded as a forerunner and seminal inspiration to that movement. And it’s an amazing place to spend a day, wandering its spiral ramps, delving into its cool crannies and marveling at both its spectacular beauty and its mind-bogglingly ambitious hand-hewn-and-assembled engineering.
Fite began work on Opus 40 in 1939, a year before author Tad Richards was born and four years before Richards’ mother, Barbara Fairbanks, married the sculptor. So Richards grew up on the site along with the artwork, and today he remains its primary steward, living with his wife, Pat Manocha Richards, in the house that his stepfather built by hand overlooking the bluestone quarry. He also serves as board president of the not-for-profit that maintains and administers the site, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Nobody living knows the place better.
Tad Richards will give a free talk this Saturday on “Opus 40: The First 20 Years,” sponsored by the Friends of Historic Saugerties. The lecture begins at 2 p.m. on November 7, in the Community Room of the Saugerties Public Library, located at 91 Washington Avenue in Saugerties. For more information, call (845) 246-4317 or visit www.saugertiespubliclibrary.org.