Sunday, September 19, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy

Art In Nature: Andy Goldsworthy

Third Grade Art Lesson

Written by Michelle Smit for Duniway Elementary,

Adapted for use at George Kelly Elementary with permission by Lynne Millar

Principle: To observe and create compositions in nature that show an awareness of the principle elements in art: (color, line, shape, texture and composition)

Concept: Nature can be a beautiful medium for art.

Objective: To introduce the works of naturalist artist Andy Goldsworthy, and to create art using natural elements in and around the school, after which their art will be photographed.


*1 water bottle per group

*paper bags for gathering things on the playground

*Power Point Presentation

*digital camera

*shells, bird seed, beans, feathers, other natural items (check with the teacher – she or he may have some items that they would be willing to let the kids use)


**MAKE SURE YOU’VE TOLD THE TEACHER THAT YOU’LL BE OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM FOR THE ART EXPERIENCE. Maybe scope out with teacher a suitable outside area to scavenge/set up the art. (We used the space in front of the trailers, which worked great because of all of the leaves and sticks and gravel that are along the edges of the trailers)

Powerpoint can be found here.

Lesson: Ask the students if they have ever made a sand castle or drawn designs in the sand? Have they ever made a snowman or snow angel? Sometimes creating art is very much like playing and exploring. Many artists are inspired by the beauty in nature: the colors, lines, shapes, textures and compositions. Some artists use paint or clay as their medium to make art; others, like Andy Goldsworthy, use nature itself.

“I enjoy the freedom of just using my hands and “found” tools – a sharp stone, the quill of a feather, thorns. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered. Here is where I can learn.” -Andy Goldsworthy

This is also a great lesson to use to introduce a few elements of art: composition (the way the artist chooses to arrange his subject), balance, and color. Ask the kids, as you show the slides, what they notice about how Andy Goldsworthy uses color, composition, and balance. (Some things that came out in our fourth grade discussion were how he created contrast with color – like the vibrant red of leaves versus the stark black of a hole, or black shiny river rocks with bright, vibrant yellow moss. The kids also noticed how Goldsworthy’s compositions all seemed very balanced – lots of circles, or patterns that looked like they were inspired by nature.

Show power point slides of Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Do the kids have any ideas about how he made these pictures?

Pose the question to the students, “Which is the actual art? The art installation or the photograph?”

Activity: Have the students pair up in groups of three or four. Take the students outside. Have them gather natural materials that are visually appealing. Look for different colors and different size leaves, rocks, sticks, dirt, etc. Have the students create an arrangement out of the natural things they have found. Take close up pictures of their completed work as well as a group photo of the students with their creation.

Art Docents: If you are using your own or the teachers’ cameras, please burn a disk for the art committee so we can incorporate these works in the end of the year art show. Thank you!!

Instruction for Instructors

Vocabulary: Environmental Art– site specific work in the landscape using nature itself as a “found object”, as both subject and raw material.

Composition: the way an artist chooses to arrange subject.

Extended Background Information:

(FYI, I know that there is a lot of information included here about his background. You don’t have to go into all of this with the kids – it’s mainly for your own knowledge. When I did this lesson with the fourth grade we only discussed details of his life for a couple of minutes, if even that.)

Born July 25, 1956, in Cheshire, England. Has three children and currently lives in Scotland.

Worked as a farm laborer in northwest England, and as a groundskeeper at an estate in Cumbria; created first work on Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, England, mid-1970s. Major projects include: "Touching North," North Pole, 1989; "Herd of Arches," Dumfriesshire, Scotland, 1994; "The Storm King Wall," Storm King Arts Center, Mountainville, NY, 1997; "Sheepfolds," northern English counties, late 1990s; "Ice Snake," Nova Scotia, Canada, 1999; "Midsummer Snowballs," London, England, 2000; "Garden of Stones," Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, NY, 2003. Solo exhibitions include: Coracle Press Gallery, London, England, 1985; Anne Berthoud Gallery, London, 1989; Hand to Earth—Sculpture 1976–90, Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds, England, 1990, and tour stops in Edinburgh, Scotland, Gouda, Netherlands, and Toulouse, France; With Nature, Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, 1991; Hard Earth, Turske Hue-Williams Gallery, London, 1992, and tour stops in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan; Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 1994; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, 1995; Musee d' Art Contemporain, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1998; Time, Barbican Centre, London, 2000; Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX, 2004; Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI, 2006.


Andy Goldsworthy carves, melts, or otherwise shapes various natural elements into impressive, often temporary works of art around the globe in what is known as "land art." The British visionary uses only snow, stone, wood, water, mud, flower petals, or even his own saliva to construct his works, which have ranged from frozen arches at the North Pole to a seven-foot-long chain of red poppy petals. "That his touch extends from the most delicate to the most massive materials confirms his position as one of the leading sculptors of our time," declared Kenneth Baker in an article on Goldsworthy's art for Town & Country.

Goldsworthy is of Scottish parentage, but was born in 1956 in Cheshire, a county in northwest England. His father was a professor of mathematics at the University of Leeds, and it was in the Leeds area that Goldsworthy had his first encounters with the landscape as a farm worker in his teens. It was this early experience that spurred his fascination with the earth and its riches, he told Anna Murphy in an interview for London's Observer. "Farming itself is a sculptural process," he said. "Fields are ploughed, bales of hay are stacked, walls are built. The day is spent shaping and re-creating what is around you."

In 1974, Goldsworthy entered Bradford College of Art, and continued his studies in art at Preston Polytechnic, which later became the University of Central Lancashire. During his three years there, he chafed at the requisite indoor studio solitude that was expected of him as a visual-arts major, and longed to be outdoors instead. A turning point came when he attended a presentation by Richard Long, Britain's foremost practitioner of "land art." The term is commonly used to denote site-specific installations that shape earth, wood, water, or other natural elements into works of art. The images of Long's work inspired Goldsworthy to head to the coastline of Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, where he assembled his first work of natural art using the stones along the shore.

Goldsworthy spent some years working as groundskeeper for an estate in Cumbria, a part of northern England that borders Scotland in the west of the British Isles. After he left school in 1978, he continued to build his outdoor sculptures, which were impermanent by nature, seen by few, and largely ignored by the mainstream arts community. After moving to Scotland in 1985, Goldsworthy gained a measure of renown with a project at the North Pole titled "Touching North," which consisted of four immense snow arches. He built a similar, but more permanent series of arches near his home in Dumfriesshire in 1994, which he titled "Herd of Arches." These were made from the pinkish-brown sandstone of a nearby quarry that had provided building materials for the city of Glasgow in the nineteenth century.

Goldsworthy's first significant project in the United States came in 1997 with "The Storm King Wall" at a celebrated sculpture park at the Storm King Arts Center in Mountainville, New York. In this part of the Hudson Valley, distinct stone walls had been commonplace since the first wave of European settlers to the region, but these structures had fallen into disrepair in modern times and were often overtaken by forests. Here Goldsworthy constructed a 2,000-plus-foot wall using the natural rocks from the region that paid homage to the past. It was a drystone wall, meaning it was built without mortar in the traditional, centuries-old method. "The wall," noted Doris Lockhart Saatchi in London's Independent on Sunday, "rises from an ancient, ruined rock boundary that inspired it, winds its way through stands of maple and oak trees, appears to dive beneath the surface of a pond, reappears at an angle on the far bank then bends sharply away before marching straight up a hill to the edge of a highway. From east to west its pace seems to quicken, allowing an analogy of Old World to New and past to present."

In the north of England in the mid-1990s, Goldsworthy received a government stipend to create "Sheep-folds," a series of drystone enclosures across the countryside that replicated the ancient enclosures that were once used to confine vast herds of sheep when England was the center of the wool trade. The project was a painstaking one, both in red tape and in the actual building of the walls, but Goldsworthy often convinced communities to grant him permission by pledging to hire local farmers—among the few who still knew how to construct the drywalls—for the job.

Goldsworthy rarely accepts commissions, but did execute one for the addition to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City in 2003. On a second-story rooftop, he created the "Garden of Stones" memorial, which featured orbs of granite hollowed out and then turned into planters for dwarf chestnut-oak saplings. These were ceremonially planted by Holocaust survivors, and Goldsworthy explained to Baker in the Town & Country article that "the trees growing out of stone are an expression of a person's ability to survive under the most difficult circumstances."

Because much of Goldsworthy's work is either geographically inaccessible, impermanent, or often both—such as "Ice Snake" in Nova Scotia, a majestic wiggle that stretched down a river briefly in 1999 before melting under the sun's heat—he makes photographs of projects available to collectors and connoisseurs. A filmmaker, Thomas Riedelscheimer, captured Goldsworthy working on "Ice Snake" and other installations in a 2001 documentary, Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy, Working with Time.

Goldsworthy also views his works as a mission to remind humankind of its far more impermanent nature, in comparison to the shifting landscape. "The fact that someone has walked in a place where I work, has lived in it and died in it, gives what I do its context, its depth," he told Baker in another article, this one for the Smithsonian. "The fact is that we live our lives on top of other people's. That's why I don't like work that claims a place. That's not the intention."

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