Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Look no farther than your own backyard...

In a recent discussion with a close friend of mine the name Andy Goldsworthy came up.  My friend is a new professor of art at Belhaven University in Jackson, and he was talking about the curriculum in an introduction to art class (art appreciation for art majors).  Apparently, one of the first things they watch and discuss in this class is the documentary Rivers and Tides about the work of Goldsworthy.  I have been curious about the contents of this class for several years because I have heard that it is remarkable, and I was very interested to hear about Rivers and Tides being shown.  I picked up the video several years ago when Hollywood Video was going out of business, but hadn't watched it since then.  

Andy Goldsworthy is an environmental artist who uses all natural materials for his sculpture.  Much of his work is ephemeral or transient, intentionally having a short life span and recorded with photography.  In the film he says that he does not consider his work to be "destroyed" by nature.  His work is a gift to nature and nature takes it and does something else with it.  It is a beautiful metaphor for life, death, and life beyond death.  Beyond any philosophical significance the work is elegant and simple with a type of universal aesthetic that few artists are able to achieve.  

His work is so universally appreciable, in fact, that even children are moved.  This past weekend my children, ages 4 and 3, asked to watch a movie.  Instead of the usual Disney or Pixar flick I decided to pull out Rivers and Tides.  It was incredible to see how mesmerized they were with it, constantly asking questions, and developing such a connection with the work that they were really sad when pieces were washed away by the rising tide or melted by the rising sun.  They actually sat through over an hour of the one and a half hour documentary, a feat in and of itself, and immediately wanted to create their own sculpture in the back yard.  

What amazes me is how easily they grasp the idea of creating an object with the sole function of existing for its visual power to create emotional responses.  That's something that many adults seem to have lost.

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy

Ren and Mae with their "project".
Yes, I helped a little.

In the middle is a brilliant pink seed pod from a magnolia bloom.