An Artist’s Collaboration With Nature: Andy Goldsworthy

Written by Tiffany Smith

Art is everywhere. It’s on storefronts, in the mail and on take-out bags; it’s in makeup design as seen on women’s faces. It’s on our clothing, in literature, in our choice of website design we choose and even on printed collateral like plastic cards. It’s everywhere we look inside our homes too; on our televisions, the walls, the floors, in the design of the fireplace and the mantle and even outside.

Andy Goldsworthy is an environmental artist/sculptor. With childlike wonder, he sees the energy in life flow through the landscape. As he builds, he creates a rhythm, a dance with nature. He then takes his creation to the edge of collapse creating a beautiful balance and harmony with the land. Smithsonian Magazine touts Goldsworthy as a latter-day Impressionist. He works outdoors with natural materials. At times, he himself becomes part of his art. He uses the sun’s light to capture moments. He builds temporary structures that the incoming tide or a gust of wind can collapse. Then he builds them again. Strategically, he builds inside of the natural world, highlighting its color, mutability and energy then capturing its beauty on camera for the world to see.

Striding Arches

Photo courtesy of Sue King-Smith

Working with anything natural — twigs, thorns, ice, snow, stones, leaves, grass, wood, clay, sand — his artwork displays a unique relationship humans have with nature. In his “Striding Arches” series pictured above, Goldsworthy takes large blocks of red sandstone and strategically places them on top of each other in the shape of an arch, without the help of mortar. Why stone and the permanence of a piece like this? Because stone is alive and a witness to time, he explains in his documentary, “Rivers and Tides.” These arches are scattered across the lush Scottish landscape.

Hanging Trees

Photo courtesy of Malcolm Morris

Slate Patterns

Photo courtesy of Espresso Addict

At different times of day, “Slate Patterns” shows how sunlight and darkness can reflect different shadows. Each piece of slate was strategically place by hand by the artist.

Chalk Balls

Photo courtesy of Chris Gunns

According to a report at adsabs.harvard.edu, this six-foot chalk stone ball, pictured above, was constructed with chalk from the Duncton Quarry. In 2002, Goldsworthy set out to place 14 of them along a trail in South Downs. The rate of disintegration was measured by a scientific monitoring team to assess chalk’s durability.

The Leaf Stalk Room

The Leaf Stalk Room houses suspended twigs from leaf stalks held together only by black thorns to form natural curtains. When Goldsworthy creates these curtains, they often collapse midway through due to a slight gust of wind or some other natural occurrence. And so the process begins again.

Stone Acron

Photo courtesy of Mike and Kristy Grundy


Tiffany Smith
Tiffany is a writer, editor and artist from San Franscisco.
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