Years passed, and photographer
, who had befriended Smith a few years before his death, returned to Bolton Landing again and again to document the sculptures lining the fields. Sometimes these were silhouetted against snowdrifts, other times against a clear blue summer sky. In 1974, however, Budnick realized that more than the backgrounds were changing—a handful of sculptures had been deliberately altered.
He brought photographic proof to Art in America, which enlisted art critic Rosalind Krauss, then an associate art history professor at Hunter College, to write an accompanying essay. Her story would send shock waves through the art world, launching a contentious debate about the primacy of an artist’s intention.
As Krauss reported in the magazine’s September/October issue, several sculptures, originally white, had been “deliberately stripped of paint,” while others were simply left to flake in the sun without proper maintenance.
“Given the identity of the executors of the estate, all this becomes particularly disturbing,” she wrote. “These pieces reveal an impairment of the integrity of the oeuvre of a major artist, an aggressive act against the sprawling, contradictory vitality of his work as Smith himself conceived it—and left it.”