“Bare branches in winter are a form of writing.” ~ Billy Collins, Winter Syntax
We’re pushing the winter season, which is something my cold weather and dark day averse family never does, but the first snowfall had us excited to see what kind of Goldsworthy we could achieve with moldable, packable, stackable snow! Although it’s not quite official winter by calendar rules, the temperature and the accumulated snow certainly had us in the winter time frame of mind.
We braved the lingering low temperatures to head back to the beach to search for drift wood pieces for a Nagato Iwasaki inspired creation Bop has been working on in his ‘magic’ art room at home, a man rendered completely out of drift wood fragments that we fondly refer to as ‘wood man.’ So our outing served double art duty, one aspect of which was to get Iwasaki materials to bring home with us, the other to leave a Goldsworthy behind.
Once on the beach trail it didn’t take long for Goldsworthy inspiration to strike. Mike spotted some barren bushes lining a marine pond that empties and fills with the changing tides. Likening the branches to the metal claws that hold precious jewels in place on rings and necklaces, he decided to nestle snowballs in the claw-like branches to see where that took us. It turned out to be the right call as the white orbs stood out from the wind stripped linear bush branches in a such a way that it created a pleasant visual oddity.
Goldsworthy is especially adept at his snow and ice pieces and has a full portfolio of ideas that he completed with winter material, ranging from wrapping icicles around trees to building snow and stone archways. Working this project with John, it seemed obvious that molding the snow was the best approach for our project and nothing comes more naturally to the toddler than a snowball, especially if it means a few could be diverted from the project to toss at me. Goldsworthy is no stranger to snowballs himself and in fact has worked with the snowball-tree combo, as well, with his usual pristine appeal.
Our decision to try to use shrubbery in lieu of trees tested our Zen levels as numerous snowballs rolled out of the less sturdy branches when the wind blew and shattered the balls back to flakes on the ground. Goldsworthy has monk like patience in the creation of his pieces. Not only in the select timing of their execution but also dealing with structural issues. In books of his works it’s not unusual to see a note describing ‘several collapses’ a project may have experienced during its construction, and his resigned and muted exasperation of the collapse of this stick piece speaks volumes of the man’s patience. Most people who work painstakingly on something for an extended period of time only to watch it utterly collapse would similarly collapse on the floor themselves into a heap of expletive spewing despair. Lucky for us we had cold temperatures and a three-year-old child to keep our perfectionism and therefore the frustration of failed snow balls at bay, and we got immense satisfaction from the ones that did stick.
As Bop and I walked to the bay to check out what became of the green circle Goldsworthy we did last week, which we discovered was pleasantly returning to nature’s preferred design, Mike found an even better canvas for the snowballs. Although the swaying quality of the branches was a source of frustration for our first snowball project that day, it was also a source of beauty watching the lodged balls bounce up and down in the bare branches when the wind would rise. The tree that Mike identified for the second snowball project on the other hand was ugly and harsh with stunted branches and rough finishes and didn’t react to the wind the way the bushes did. So we were able to add our snowballs to it fairly quickly without as much angst over stability and get a completely different feel from the same act. The snowballs provided a playfulness to the tree and a sweet acknowledgment of the tree’s presence in the challenging elements.
To complete the full art circle of the day, we ended our outing by bringing Bop’s completed wood man into the glade behind his house that will be the home to him and other drift wood creations, past and future. Iwasaki is in the Goldsworthy vein in that his creations are made from naturally found wood and held together naturally, as well, using wooden stakes as opposed to bolts or nails or glue. Although more representational than Goldsworthy, Iwasaki is an inspiration to Bop and as fans of Bop’s work ourselves, we were happy to learn from and enjoy both environmental artist masters that day.