Throughout 2022, I’ve been bombarding you with think-pieces.
Week after week, I’ve delved deep into massive, often depressing subjects.
I get it.
But now it’s Summer.
Things slow down when it’s hot outside.
We seek out the water.
Listen to the leaves quake in the breeze.
Smell the flowers.
Bask in the color of the sky.
Because nature is soothing.
It makes us feel better.
Today, knowing I wanted to keep it short and sweet, I took a look at the book-submission-pile, but it was too daunting.
And I’ve mined my shelves enough to know that wasn’t going to work either.
(We can only use the same trick so many times.)
No travel stories or portfolio review articles were ready to go.
“What’s a hard-working columnist to do,” I wondered?
At that exact moment, (I swear, no lie,) I looked down and saw two coffee-table-books on the arm of the couch.
They’d clearly been moved there from the cedar-chest-coffee-table, for children’s play, and I hadn’t noticed them before.
Immediately, I recognized a coffee-table-book that used to reside on my mother-in-law’s shelf, one of only four or five art books in their massive library.
(So it was memorable.)
The book is by one of my all-time-favorite artists: Andy Goldsworthy.
Yet somehow, I’d never picked it up before.
Back in graduate school, I had to go into Manhattan one day to catch a film at an indie-cinema-house.
It was assigned: “Rivers and Tides,” about Andy Goldsworthy.
(I should give it a re-watch, because it’s so damn inspirational.)
The art in the film, and in this book, “Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature,” published by Abrams in 1990, is among the most remarkable I’ve ever seen.
And I’m not alone.
Just yesterday, after I’d finished this review, my daughter picked up the book, flipped page-by-page, and it was like a blind person restored to sight.
She simply could not believe what she saw, continuously exclaiming, “What! How! How did he do that? Insane! What! How? I don’t even understand! Amazing! What? How did he do that?”
(And I’m not exaggerating. It went on for five minutes.)
To make art in nature, out of nature, that conjures the powerful feelings and emotions that nature engenders?
Though he’s super-famous, in case you’re unfamiliar, Andy Goldsworthy uses everything from snow, ice, rocks, trees, leaves, sand, and decaying heron feathers, in locations as far flung as England, Wales, Scotland, Arizona, The North Pole, France and Japan.
He builds sculptures, or nature installations, and many (if not most,) are temporary.
So the photographs become the evidence; the record of art made for the moment, rather than for an audience of humans.
The execution, creativity, patience, and connection to the Zen spirit of the world, are breathtaking.
But the grounded, Down-to-Earth, whimsical magnificence Andy Goldsworthy projects, (in “Rivers and Tides,”) his general likability, adds to the enjoyment as well.
And it always boiled down to one scene for me. (Which became an in-joke with Jessie, when we lived in New York.)
In the film, the camera captures Andy laying on the ground, spread eagle, on the grass outside, along the road, and a kindly neighbor strolls up.
“Hey, Andy. What are you doing there,” the neighbor asks?
A fair question.
“Working,” he replies, with a grin on his face.
In the book, we see how he landed that particular investigation, as the outline of his human form is recorded on the Earth, with powders.
(It doesn’t get much better than that.)
The past few years, (when I’ve been able to travel,) I mostly lost the taste for hitting up the galleries and museums.
It felt a bit “been-there-done-that,” as if I’d seen so much, over the years, that all the art began to blend together.
I forgot just how powerful it can be to experience the type of greatness that makes you want to strive for more.
(To leave a mark, even if it’s a small one.)
The last 2.5 years have felt like 10, and I don’t want to get old too quickly.
Exhaustion, cynicism, and horrific-world-events can rightly get us down.
But this book, from my Alzheimer’s-ridden mother-in-law, Bonnie, rekindled my passion to see great art again.
(What a gift.)
See you next week!