Everything you can imagine is real

by Melanie Hasbrook

Julia Thomas, Office Manager/Executive Assistant

In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Everything you can imagine is real.” Although some may disagree, the certainty of this truth comes to life at Olana. Standing tall for all to see, Olana has instantly become a recognized and admired landmark to a vast amount of people.

Although it took me over twenty-five years, this year my childhood dream of one day visiting Olana came to fruition. Surprisingly, reality has surpassed my imagination! Each day I find new beauties, natural wonders, and settings for reflection in the landscape that has opportunely become my place of work. Frederic Church was a man of vision—come with me as I offer a portion of this vision, while striving to entice you to take the steps toward experiencing Olana and all it has to offer.

As you enter Olana’s landscape, enchantment sets in. Whether strolling with your four-legged friend at your side through the winding carriage roads, or enjoying an old-fashioned picnic near the startlingly beautiful garden, you immediately feel a sense of peace. The farm, lake, woodlands, and paths are all a part of what makes Olana so very uniquely special; designs and creations over which Church was predominately involved. The Main House, the entity that initially grasps one’s attention from afar, is simply the culmination of the package! Here, Olana’s visitors now view the Hudson River from above, gazing dreamily through one of Frederic Church’s arched windows bordered with amber glass, which frames a most splendid picture. Far more than a dream, Olana is a world—a seemingly fantasy land—available year round to soothe wounds, enchant the romantic, and harbor hearts indiscriminately.

What I have enjoyed most this year at Olana is experiencing the striking and vast setting variations incurred by seasonal changes. Church recognized this and intended the carved roadways to enable its passengers to partake in the plethora of aesthetic diversity. While wandering along the carriage roads, you will find yourself meandering through cool, dense woodlands where a variety of birds join with somewhat amusing frogs creating a chorus you’ll surely want to join! Soon you’ll be rounding Church’s artist-designed ten-acre lake, surrounded by the vibrant and tall sentinels whose shadows it mirrors. They, whose task seems to be most enjoyable, proudly wave their branches as you pass by. Imagine, relishing in this reality, free of charge—all year round.

Ironically, Church had his own imaginations and dreams. He began creating on canvas, painting trees, water, and mountains. His works of art were stimulating. Yet, had they remained on canvas alone, no one would have recognized that his imagination was real. As he began to create live art, planting thousands of native trees, designing gardens, carriage roads, a hand-hewn lake, and unmatched architecture—his passion for nature, the natural, and people became clearly apparent to all. His ideas were innovating, even making use of the “muck” from the marshy wet land setting of the lake to fertilize his crops. His keen insights and compassionate desire to share his visions and imaginations with others is a legacy that will live on forever.

Church’s masterpiece of a house, which sits on the pinnacle of the 250-acre estate, can be seen while crossing the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, typically one’s first glimpse of Olana. The Main House includes intricate stenciling, inside and out, which he designed with a Middle Eastern theme. Together, with architect Calvert Vaux, Church constructed this enormous piece of art. The beautiful and decorative rooms are presently filled with Church’s artwork, large and small.

So don’t allow your dreams to be squashed, come to Olana and see for yourself that Frederic Church truly exemplified Picasso’s words, long before they were spoken, and breathed life into imagination!

In addition, you are currently invited, until November 1, to also view the 2015 exhibition River Crossings: Contemporary Art Comes Home, co-curated by Stephen Hannock and Jason Rosenfeld. This exhibition is presented in partnership with the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, featuring contemporary art installed directly into the historic spaces and landscapes of the two historic sites RiverCrossings.org.