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.


tangobaby said...

Oh, I'm so glad you posted about this. I just loved being so close to that installation. I miss that, and I miss you! Thanks for such a great post.

A Cuban In London said...

What a beautiful piece the first one is! Unbelievable. I recognise the name from the Culture Show. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

LoisW said...

I have never heard of this place. It's fascinating! Your photos really show it off. I love the curviness... My zen for the day!

CC said...

What an incredible piece. Thanks so much for the wonderful photos and sharing.

Emily said...

That is very unique. I really like it.

paris parfait said...

I had forgotten all about that work. Thanks for the reminder!

Relyn Lawson said...

His work is incredible, and so are these photographs of it.

This week was our spring break and we went to Tulsa to my favorite regional museum. When we were shopping I came across three of Andy Goldsworthy's books. All three were absolutely amazing. I already have them requested through our inter-library loan system. Then, came and found him here. That kind of synchronicity just thrills me.

Elizabeth said...

Never heard about Andy Goldsworthy but I love your pictures of the wall. So this will be added to my list of topics to research. Thanks for this.

Yoli said...

These images have a fluidity and life of their own. At once modern, at once ancient in feel.

julochka said...

thank you for sharing this. i hadn't heard of andy galsworthy, but i love this line you quoted, "there's a gap in my understanding of the piece."

so powerful.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear tangobaby,
Were it not for you, I would have walked by this piece over and over again. Thank you very much!

Dear Cuban,
I'm glad you like the piece. I forgot to mention that Goldsworthy is a Brit.

Dear Middle Aged,
Zen for the day is a perfect description of this piece!

Dear CC,
Incredible indeed.

Dear Jemm,
Yes, Goldsworthy's art is very unique.

Dear Paris,
Maybe you can come over and refresh your memory in person???

Dear Relyn,
We continue our journey on the same page :)

Dear Elizabeth,
There are quite a few Goldsworthy installations in Europe. Maybe there is one in Denmark.

Dear Yoli,
You are a poet. I wish I could write like you.

Dear Julochka,
It really speaks to his commitment to his art, doesn't it?

Ruth said...

Oh yes, I've seen some of his other work online. This one is quite wonderful I think, especially in the grass.

godutchbaby said...

Dear Ruth,
I agree; the green is a very nice contrast.

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