Park Wonder is Matthew Jensen’s multi-year investigation of four historic New Jersey parks and landscapes—Gateway National Recreation Area at Sandy Hook, the Watchung Reservation, Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and the Passaic River. Jensen, a landscape-based artist who relies on what he calls “the magic of seeing and the power of patient observation,” spent extended periods of time in each place, walking, taking thousands of photographs, and collecting found objects.
For this site-specific exhibition, Jensen framed a selection of photographs—some with custom shelves displaying artifacts from the corresponding landscapes. He also constructed collection displays to showcase additional found objects. Balanced on polished brass rods, these seemingly precious artifacts convey an aura of mystery and wonder. Jensen uses this sampling of images and objects to create a complex portrait of place.
The exhibition also incorporates several interactive elements, including a reading area with some of Jensen’s research materials. Maps and walking guides documenting Jensen’s walks in and around each landscape are available as takeaways, encouraging visitors to explore on their own. And an installation that suggests a typical suburban interior holds Jensen’s Passaic River archive. Visitors are invited to look through bureau drawers containing mounted artifacts and 300 photographs that Jensen took during his Passaic River walks. Peeling floral wallpaper reveals a map of the Passaic River carved into the wall behind the bureau, underscoring our complicated relationship with the landscapes around us that we sometimes fail to see.
With Park Wonder, Jensen presents many small surprises he has found hidden within the landscape—unexpected views and captivating artifacts that might otherwise remain overlooked. By bringing these visual traces of local landscapes into the gallery, Jensen inspires visitors to rediscover for themselves the wonder of nearby places.
View exhibition catalogue here
This exhibition is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.