Andy Goldsworthy and San Francisco

16 July 2012

Lens:

I. “Wood Line” (2011) at the Presidio

1. “Wood Line,” Andy Goldsworthy, Presidio in San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

2. “Wood Line,” Andy Goldsworthy, Presidio in San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

II. “Spire” (2008) at the Presidio

3. “Spire,” Andy Goldsworthy,  Presidio, San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

4. “Spire,” Andy Goldsworthy, Presidio in San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

5. “Spire,” Andy Goldsworthy, Presidio in San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

6. My Grandchildren with “Spire,” Andy Goldsworthy, Presidio in San Francisco, Nikon DSLR, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

III. “Drawn Stone” (2005) at the de Young Museum

7. “Drawn Stone,” Andy Goldsworthy, de Young Museum, San Francisco, iPhone 4s, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

8. “Drawn Stone,” Andy Goldsworthy, de Young Museum, San Francisco, iPhone 4s, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

9. My Grandson Walking “Drawn Stone,” Andy Goldsworthy, de Young Museum, San Francisco, iPhone 4s, June 2012;  © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Let me know which is your favorite.

Pens:

One of my favorite contemporary artists is Andy Goldsworthy, a Brit who is known for ephemeral land art. He’s been creating site-specific environmental works since the 1970s, and he has never strayed from his artistic mission: the dark and light side of the precarious relationship between nature and human nature.

For over thirty years his sculptures (moving or stilled) have revealed themes of change and time: the life cycle in its most dramatic and mesmerizing. But he also portrays the tension that exists between art and society.

Goldsworthy’s work has dignity–a reverence for the natural world. He is a quiet man with a mission that has altered the way others see the landscape and their relationship to it. Slowly, his work has spread worldwide and his devotees have grown exponentially.

His palette consists of the delicate (leaves), the longer lasting (soil, felled trees, sticks, stone and rock), the short-lived (ice and snow), the constantly moving (tides and water). Much of his work is transient and impermanent, which is an important layer of his artistic narrative. But, of course, that’s the point of installations that use natural materials; they’re subject to the rise and fall of the temps, the sun’s powerful touch, human and non-human intervention, and weather-related folly.

Prior to my excursion to the West Coast I had only seen one of Goldsworthy’s works. I wrote about this experience at the beginning of my blogging life (click here to see the post about “Roof,” which is located in the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection).

My enthusiasm for Goldsworthy’s art made it imperative to see his works in San Francisco. With teenagers who had other items on their wish lists, a delicate balance was needed. Thanks to my cousin and his encyclopedic familiarity and knowledge of the city we were driven door-to-door to gaze upon each work.

Since 2005 Goldsworthy’s commissions in the Bay area have risen to three: two at the Presidio at the northern end of the city and one at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. In the Lens section I have posted images that represent my view of them.

Art is a difficult subject to photograph. It becomes even more problematic in the outdoors where the elements play heavily on the results. Light and weather do not always cooperate nor do visitors.

Often I wonder why we even attempt to photograph art. Certainly a reproduction in a finely-printed art book still does not do justice to the real work. Still, photography has given scores of people the ability to see masterpieces that otherwise they would not. And me I want to share my admiration for Goldsworthy’s visual interpretations and memories of nature.

As I stood before each of the works, I was quieted, placed inside a prism of joy. While “Wood Line” (felled eucalyptus trunks, which may last twenty years) lyrically weaves one thousand feet through the forest floor, the “Spire” (forty cypress logs in the shape of a cone, which will eventually be camouflaged by new growth) rises into an almost one-hundred-foot apex and hungers to disappear into the stratosphere, and “Drawn Stone” (uses paving stones and boulders of limestone from Yorkshire, England) is a continuous crack that mimic’s the fault line and memories of California earthquakes; it begins at the Museum’s entrance and moves into the courtyard where the crack dissects large rough-hewn stone slab benches.

These three depictions remind us of humanity’s and nature’s abundance, devastations and losses. Even in their differences they are bound together by their maker’s philosophy–a philosophy that eagerly presents the rawness of Mother Nature. The message is realized.

This unassuming man makes art that slips quieting into and onto the land, respecting nature and allowing the work to speak for itself. For me one of the most successful aspects of this art is his use of a singular material per piece. Each sculpture gives meaning to slate, pebbles, pine needles, birch twigs, oak sticks, reeds, mud, or…It’s an approach that gives focus and meaning without great fanfare.

As an advocate for nature Goldsworthy takes the unnoticed, unrealized and transfers it into a monumental statement about the frailty of life. He does not intend to create edifices, but each work does become a visual tribute to the see-saw relationship between humanity and Mother Nature.

His site-specific works are changed with time’s passage.  Still, decay is slow, which allows you ample opportunity to see the work of one of today’s finest artists–even if his legacy is ephemeral.

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of my blog. To see a variety of his work, click here. In addition I have two previous posts that include Goldsworthy, click here and here to read them.

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18 Responses to Andy Goldsworthy and San Francisco

  1. ancientfoods says:

    july 18,Hi, i just wanted to let you know i nominated you for the one lovely blog award

  2. Northern Narratives says:

    The trees are amazing 🙂

  3. marialla says:

    Thank you – the first and second pictures are truly beautiful. I sooo love trees, pathways through tree (but not necessarily in the dark) and all of nature!!!

    • Marialla, “Wood Line” is definitely inspiring. Goldsworthy used a section of the forest where cypress trees had dies. He did not disturb nature’s mark. His reverence for nature and the beauty of his installation created a “living” memory for me. Thanks, Sally

  4. Andy Goldsworthy is amazing! We saw his work at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where he had been artist in residence for a year. We were over awed by it. His books are wonderful too and we keep dipping in to them so that we can remember that exhibition in Yorkshire.

  5. Val says:

    There was an exhibition of photos of his ice works not far from where I used to live, in London, some years ago. Most of his work is magical. While your photos are great, I’m not overly impressed by his ‘drawn stone’ as to me it just looks gimmicky.

    • Val, the first time that we entered the de Young, we completely missed Drawn Stone. It conjures the yin/yang effect: an unobtrusive work that is seemingly the opposite of its message. For me this particular piece is (mostly) about education, which certainly is a role of art. I’d really like to see some of his ephemeral work that is whisked away by the sun or wind. I believe that is where a lot of his (as you said) magic happens, Sally

  6. Goldsworthy is a genius. You were so fortunate to be able to see his work! Great to have your grandchildren see it, too!

  7. Amy says:

    My favorite is #5, the tree looks so dignified and the sun… Beautiful picture of your grandchildren, Sally. Thank you so much for sharing the lens and pens about and Andy Goldsworthy!

  8. I especially like #1. There is something off-kilter and forboding about it. I am a big fan of the others as well!

  9. Gracie says:

    Awesome shots, Sally! My favorite is #4, love the composition and perspective, You made the spire appear like a giant compared to the rest of the greenery, or was it really that tall?

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