Andy Goldsworthy is a different kind of artist. He only uses natural materials like stone, wood, ice, mud, leaves, flower petals and (euuugh) even his own saliva. Plus, most of his art is temporary. He will spend hours, even days, created a sculpture like his seven-foot-long chain of red poppy petals only to let it disappear down a river bed.
Some people might think that’s a big ol’ waste of time, but his main themes are movement, change, light, growth, and decay, so destruction of his work as a key part of the process as well the art itself.
As he puts it, “The fact is that we live our lives on top of other people’s [lives]. That’s why I don’t like work that claims a place.” So how does a guy like that get famous? Well, he might make temporary art in often geographically isolated places like the North Pole and Nova Scotia, but he makes sure to photograph every piece, good or bad, so he can share his unique vision with the rest of the world.
Making Goldsworthy art is a challenge. Even Andy thinks so. “I think it’s incredibly brave to be working with flowers and leaves and petals. But I have to: I can’t edit the materials I work with. My remit is to work with nature as a whole.”
So why do it? Because it’s rewarding, and it’ll help you better understand and appreciate the natural world.
The safety concerns with this activity are the normal safety concerns with being outside in nature:
- Wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes to protect your feet;
- Avoid poisonous plants;
- Be on the look-out for bees and other stinging insects;
- Dress for the weather. If it is cold be sure to wear hat, gloves, scarves, etc. If it is wet, wear rain gear.
The instructions below are just suggestions. The important thing here is to just be creative and use your own imagination.
Gather natural materials like flower petals, leaves, twigs, pine needles, pinecones, pebbles, stripes of bark, feathers, seeds, and rocks that strike you visually. Look for interesting colors, shapes, and textures. Rivet Tip: Be sure you have permission to gather these materials. For example, don’t pick flowers from someone’s garden unless they say it is okay. Also take care not to harm anything living. Picking twigs off the ground is fine, but breaking them off the tree itself can cause permanent damage.
Find a special place to work. It can be a place you feel a connection to like your favorite tree or a secrete hollow or it can be or it can just be a place with an interesting feature like a hole in the ground or a crack in a rock.
Arrange your materials in a way that pleases you but is not a recognizable symbol such as a peace sign. Digitip: Check out Andy Goldsworthy’s website gallery at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Goldsworthy for inspiration.
Take a picture. Digitip: Don’t get too fancy with the photography. A cell phone or basic point and shoot camera will work just fine. Andy uses very simple techniques when photographing his work and does not try to “stage” images
Give your art a title. Rivet Tip: Include a setting, title, and date, and write it down on a card for your photo. This is an example of one of Andy Goldsworthy’s titles: Bracken fronds stripped down one side pinned to the ground with thorns below an oak tree Scaur Glen, Cumfriesshire 8 September 1995
Then just walk away. You can come back with family and friends to show them your work (or you could just show them your picture), but don’t try to preserve it. What you made is part of nature and therefore you must allow it to change with nature. If a storm rolls in and blows your leaves away or an animal knocks your stones over so be it.
To make this more fun, after you’ve made your own, try making some with your friends. You can make it a contest, where you each have half an hour to find and make something. Or you can work together on a Mega-Freaky Piece of Art.
Although it's not very Goldsworthy-like, use other materials you find in the garden. You can see in our video that we used a number of things that were definitely man-made!
If you would like to learn more about Andy Goldsworthy and “Land Art” check out the links below:
- Rivers and Tides is a superb documentary about Andy Goldsworthy.
- Robert Smithson coined the phrase “land art” to describe creating place-based art out of natural materials.
- James Turrell started the most ambitious “land art” project to date in 1974 when he began reshaped the earth surrounding the Roden Crater Volcano in Arizona. Work on this project continues to this day.