Thursday, March 26, 2009

“Stone River” by Andy Goldsworthy

I’ve walked by it many times without realizing it was there because its ridge is level with the ground.

In summer, the sandstones are perfectly camouflaged into the color of the dry golden grass and dirt.

And then one day, when tangobaby and I had a conversation about the genius of Andy Goldsworthy’s art, she told me that one of his works was right here in my own back yard.  I’m talking about Andy Goldsworthy’s 2001 sculpture “Stone River” , a 320-foot-long sandstone sculpture set in a 3 ½ foot channel in front of Stanford University’s Cantor Center for Visual Arts.

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor who uses elements of nature and shapes them into art that fits perfectly into its environment. All his works are beautifully documented in his books and his DVD "Rivers and Tides".

Some of his art is impermanent, meant to be melted by the sun or washed away by the waves of the sea or rush of a river. Other works, like “Stone River”, are permanent. He supervised eight experienced dry-stone wallers from Great Britain while they worked six days a week, eleven hours a day, for three-and-a-half weeks in August 2001. In the mean time, Goldsworthy himself created a temporary sculpture of grasses and leaves just a few yards away. He describes:
 "The ephemeral work is the soul of my art. That is the food. All these other things that I do -- the permanent pieces, the installations in museums -- are like breathing out.” [1]
All of his art echoes the shapes of nature.  This wall reminds me of a rattle snake I might see the in the hills not far from here, swishing back and forth in sinusoidal waves, as it propels itself through the dirt. It is hard to remember that this “creature” is made entirely of inorganic materials, yet it conveys so much life and movement.

Goldsworthy used sandstone from a repository of materials salvaged from Stanford University buildings damaged in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes to create “Stone River”. The fact that he only uses found materials makes this “boneyard” the perfect source for this project.
"The idea of stone that was once a building returned to the ground, back into the earth, for a work that is about flow, movement and change, it was perfect. It was really perfect.”
His goal was to achieve “the ridiculous edge” as the spine of the wall.

His unflagging dedication to his work is legendary. He lamented that he had to interrupt his time with the sculpture in order to be guest of honor at the inauguration of the sculpture.
"I've stayed here watching it the whole day. I've seen incredible changes (now) there's a gap in my understanding of the piece… If you had to describe my work in one word, it would be 'time'."
I have to admit that I understand his frustration a tiny bit. The first photos I took of this sculpture were in July, 2007, when the sculpture looked arid and hot, like it had just risen up from the dirt, barely differentiating itself from its surroundings.


Then when I recently happened to drive by the location after a good rain storm, when the grass was bright green, the sculpture took on a completely different nature. It looked cool and lush, complementing its environment rather than melting into it.

I’m not sure if Goldsworthy has seen this piece in this blossoming state, but if he saw the dramatic changes, he would be want to be here year-round to get a fuller understanding of the piece. Hmm, that might not be all bad; maybe he’ll be inspired to do another work of art.

Flickr set here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Cactus League

This time last year we went to ScottsdaleArizona to see the San Francisco Giants play in the Cactus League because, as you may have learned in a prior post, anything baseball-related meets with no opposition from our two teens. About half of the Major League Baseball teams congregate for spring training in the greater Phoenix area where they practice and play each other for exhibition games before the official season begins. The other half of the teams go to Florida for spring training in the Grapefruit League. I like going to spring training games because it draws serious fans who will go the extra distance to follow their favorite team. There is an unspoken understanding about the love of the game. Well, maybe not so unspoken. 
The first game we attended was at the Giants’ spring training home, the Scottsdale Stadium. Since it seats only 12,000, it has a more intimate feeling than AT&T Park in San Francisco which has a capacity of 40,000. 
Matt Cain pitched against the Milwaukee Brewers:

As the coaches watch intently from the dugout:
We saw some old favorite players like Daniel Ortmeier (first photo), Rich Aurilia, and Randy Winn :
and  Aaron Rowan’s unique stance:
Eugenio Velez, brought up from the minor leagues, was very exciting to watch and ended up leading the major leagues in stolen bases during spring training:
It was a bit of a drive to watch the Giants play the Texas Rangers in their beautiful stadium in Surprise, Arizona, but we were greeted with good ol’ southern hospitality:
 On hot days, the shady seats are prized:
 Future Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum pitched:

Bengie Molina may be slow, but he made it all the way to third base:
I think he was safe, don’t you?

On our last day, we returned to Scottsdale Stadium for the last pre-season game. Amazingly, we arrived early enough to take a stroll around the concession stands. 

Several retired Giants players were signing autographs including Bay Area Hall-of-Famer Vida Blue, who charged $10 to for the privilege of having your picture taken with him. We normally don't indulge in this type of thing but I have a great deal of respect for his pitching ability so I decided to go for it. I didn't begrudge him the $10 for one bit because he was a great player, achieving his records without the benefit of designer drugs, while only making a fraction of the money that today's players command. He was incredibly energetic and friendly. Note: I learned in a comment from "Anonymous" that Blue did time for drugs. I don't know if he used performance-enhancing steroids, which is what I was referring to, but I decided to strike the statement nevertheless. 
AT&T Park in San Francisco may have their famous garlic fries, but Scottsdale Stadium has Island Noodles, where chicken, vegetables, and noodles are stir-fried on the spot in giant woks. They also have The Lemonade Guy who cries out: “Lemonade, lemonade, just like Grandma made!”
If you give him eye contact, he will burst into a great big grin, look you square in the eye, and loudly announce so the entire section can hear: “You know you want it!” I think lemonade goes very well with stir-fry.
We sat in Section 109 where we met an amiable gentleman who introduced us to Angela, the mayor of the section. He is a member of a group of retirees from Santa CruzCalifornia who rents several apartments within walking distance of the stadium for one month every spring. He told our kids that sections 216 and 217 are best for catching foul balls and gave us the low-down on who the best up and coming young players are, like Eugenio Velez. We chuckled when he shouted into the field calling him "Spider". With his black socks and crouching style when he takes a lead, he really does look like a spider. 
At the seventh inning stretch, the Anheuser-Busch wagon with its famous clydesdale horses circled the stadium reminding the fans that, even with all that lemonade, they might still be a little thirsty.
At around the same time, Angela came around to tell her constituents about a casual get together in one of the apartments. This group knows how to live!
Since this was the last game of the pre-season, the gift shop had an excellent sale near the end of the game. We needed a couple of baseballs because some of the players were signing autographs.
Our son scored an autograph from Brian Bocock.
We are so grateful that our love of baseball united our family for a perfectly wonderful, relaxing weekend in the desert.
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