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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Goldsworthy Redux

I woke up to brighter light—new snow—and thought about Andy Goldsworthy. I’m still wondering if those three stacked stones in the edge of the lake were his, a sort of private conversation with Otsego Lake and Kingfisher Tower, back when he was doing a project near Albany…  Perhaps it was simply homage to him, he being so near at the time.  He’s such an oddly Old Testament sort of figure, setting up cairns and stacked stone markers where he has had an encounter with the otherworldly this-worldly.  I am very glad he does it, though I am also glad that I make my cairns out of words.

My idea of Andy Goldsworthy is very appealing, the thought that he gets up early and works in the cold (being a Southerner, I do not want to go and do likewise!) in order to search for some kind of “rightness” and to make something that appears effortless.  It is a right goal of all art, to labor in order to create what seems tossed-off, effortless, or as natural as a leaf spiring from the darkness of earth.

Another thing I like about Goldsworthy is that he is not afraid to be silly and play, and that for him the whole world becomes the realm of art. For him, the landscape is always on the verge of revelation—it reveals itself in speaking water, stone, air, and fire. (Fire often appears when ice or particles or fur catch light, but it can also appear in transformed vegetable matter, as when a disk of earth-blackened leaves inside a sort of tequila sunrise of yellow-orange-red leaves shows that energy burned in a place as a bonfire does in a ring of stones.)

A great wheel of upbuilding and raveling never stops, and at its dark center one verges onto another world. It’s rather like the biblical injunction to “pray without ceasing”—that is, to make one’s entire life lit with the radiance of knowing God, knowing a greater life and being more alive. Art is always calling us to a larger life, to other worlds…

A large part of Andy Goldsworthy's art is to make one see this world with infant sight. That means that when, say, a great cairn of bleached driftwood (black-hearted, topped by a disk of darkness and absence) unwinds and floats apart as the sea comes in, we will see it drawn away as if into another plane, another reality—the work being a sort of nest of time raveled and invaded by eternity, a new sort of making rather than simple unmaking. The marriage of the dark center with the earthly driftwood limbs is seemingly dissolved yet encompasses more as it disintegrates, widening to hold the sea and vanishing as if into another realm—the sea accepts its gift.

So incense went up from sacrifice, sending up a wavering ladder of fragrance between one world and another.  Likewise Goldsworthy’s great upright circles of polar ice blocks or stone work work rather in the way pierced stone was said to allow fairy sight, transforming the eye and showing a new world, there all the time but unseen.   


  1. ah, yes...Marly.

    My Jon was the one who introduced me to Goldsworthy. It was many years ago, when he was a student working in a book shop. Long before the film that spread his fame. One of his books came as a Christmas present from Jon. And my eyes and heart where changed by that boy once again.

  2. zephyr,

    So sweet--your Jon is still beautiful, though apart from you in time...

  3. what a beautiful post and i love Goldsworthy's art too, particularly the ephemeral nature of so many of his pieces and how they endlessly evolve as they fall apart

  4. Hi there, Juliet--

    Yes, I love that part of his work as well! (Although I am glad he knows how to use a camera so that we can share it as well.)

    And now I am off to a different kind of moving beauty--boys (mostly) wrestling...

  5. Beauty is mostly what we create in our minds.
    Beauty is what we make of our world.

    To me, that means that WE are the creators of beauty.
    I find this enlightening and... magical!

  6. Wow! Another find. Thanks for introducing me to this fellow's work.

  7. I love Goldsworthy's work though I haven't seen any in real life. Your writings about it is just perfect and really beautiful. I'm sure he would think so too.

    Some of us visual artists have a hard time putting into words what our art is about. You'd be a great partner for such artists for that role, Marly.

  8. yes, Marly. and he is good company, even if it's a bit difficult hearing his voice sometimes :^)

  9. Just back from a wrestling duals meet and find all these nice comments here and elsewhere...


    Magical is good! Thanks.


    He has lots and lots of big picture books. But just google his name, choose "images," and prepare for loveliness... About ten years back, Thomas Riedelsheimer did a beautiful film about Goldsworthy. It's called "Rivers and Tides" and gives you a good look at what Goldsworthy is up to and how he thinks about art, time, movement, and the elements of his work.


    I'm glad to please an artist! Some day I will have to write something for you, too--when I have lived with your images longer...


    It's one of the strange things about life, the way as time goes on some essential people are elsewhere, though they feel so close--in a next room, only we don't have the key.

  10. Great post, Marly! Smorgasblogged.

  11. Smorgasblogged! Hey, thanks, Dave--

  12. Land art like his is potentially a wondrous thing, timeless, new and old, surprising and yet as if it had always been there...

    Thanks for this, Marly.

  13. The permanent ones do feel ancient--like the works of the western Mound Builders.

  14. oh, modern mounds, yes. i particularly like Maya Lin's Wavefield at Storm King

  15. I do need to go to Storm King! I've seen films, but one would like to ramble!


Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.