Tuesday, August 28, 2007

. . . about art and nourishment

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor and photographer, living in Scotland, who produces site-specific sculpture and land art situated in natural and urban settings. His art involves the use of natural and found objects to create both temporary and permanent sculptures which draw out the character of their environment. [1]

In the documentary Rivers and Tides he speaks of a sacredness in all rocks and trees, of walking around for several hours looking at all the stones on the other side of the river near his home place, of knowing that there is a stone, a strong stone with an incredible shape, that he's been avoiding and and on finally examining the stone says, "I have to do it, I have to work with it."

"There is something that drives me to make certain works on occasion even though in my mind I'm telling me, 'no don't do that, it's too much trouble. No, don't lie in the rain in the street just now' and the next thing I know I'm lying in the rain in the street [making a "shadow" of himself where he lies.] There is something inside me saying this is something I have to do."

For me, this is powerful and comforting: knowing an artist who does what he "has to do", what is inside him; knowing someone who is doing what they love, feeling impelled to work, to create, regardless of other considerations (weather, their surroundings, what others think and so forth.)

He goes on to say, "There is balance between the ephemeral and permanent. The ephemeral work is done with the sense of not knowing what I will make or where I will make it. It's intuitive and it changes as the day progresses. And that has a sense of discovery and that's how I learn, that's the nourishment, that's the breathing in of my art, the lifeblood of my art. I need that. Then every so often I make the permanent work and that draws on what I've understood from the ephemeral."

Art is shared nourishment. What nourishes the artist ultimately nourishes us.

I recently saw Andy Goldsworthy's installation "Roofs" at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. It is a series of domes of stone, one piece of slate set on another in a circle, around and around forming a roof ending with a hole left open in the top. The domes of stone are mostly outside in the courtyard, but in a few places they are inside impinging on the glass wall of the gallery.

I wondered if they were receding out of or advancing into the atrium, so convinced was I that the shapes were whole units. Could they be roofs of an ancient people existing long before and somehow preserved in place as the gallery was built around them? What made the artist decide on this installation? What about the space inspired the thought to build 9 domes, 5 and half feet tall and 27 feet in diameter? Is there greater meaning to be derived from them? And so my thoughts spin on, nourished by his art.

Now, when I need a meditative moment in my day, I dwell on that one artist somewhere in the world contemplating a stone, a leaf, a petal, a twig, an icicle...impelled to do what he has to do. Just the knowing that he is there. This is restorative, stabilizing, calming, comforting, nourishing.

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