Art has always been an essential part of the environmental movement, some artists such as Sayaka Kajita using reclaimed material in sculptures and photographs. More often than not, it is the use of man-made trash or reclaimed products to convey some sort of message about the degradation of the environment. However, one important environmental artist, Andy Goldsworthy, knows that sometimes the best collaborator is not material created by man, but material provided by the Earth.
The British sculptor lives and works in Scotland, creating pieces solely out of material he finds in nature and photographing the artwork upon completion. What makes Goldsworthy’s pieces so impactful is that they last as long as nature does. While he may photograph them, the essence of the piece is in the materials, the leaves and stones, and in the way they change with the world around them. He was once quoted saying, “A stone is ingrained with geological and historical memories.” It is that appreciation for the material that makes Goldsworthy’s art so lively, so ecstatically beautiful. The piece lives and then it dies. The art becomes of part of the stones memory and the stone becomes part of the art.
Although most of his installments are done in nature, many of them without an audience, Goldsworthy worked with stone for an installment at the National art gallery in 2004, titled roof. The installment featured domes made of stacked slate, dealing with his interest in the human passage through time. Goldsworthy had done several pieces like it, fashioning domes out of less durable materials like leaves and twigs.
What is so striking about Goldsworthy’s work is that he is able to create a piece using only the materials in the natural world. He can patiently piece together sculptors that will topple over in mere moments. Goldsworthy is a model of peaceful collaboration and creation with the Earth and a model to follow. Not only does he see the beauty in the Earth, but he enhances that beauty without destroying it. It is possible to use the planet without misusing the planet. One of the most important lessons from Goldsworthy’s art is that the Earth will be there long after we are. Humans can create and build and destroy, but it will all amount to nothing if we cannot coexist with the planet. He builds a sculpture with the Earth and allows the materials to return to the Earth in their own time. He doesn’t rush the artistic process and allows nature to take its course without interfering, something all humans must emulate if we are to survive as a species.