By David and Gail
Photos by James Chandler and David Pychon
For a week of our Creative Expressions of Nature class, we put down our pens and journals, of which we’ve grown quite fond, in favor of leaves, twigs, and multi-colored mud. Our focus shifted to the work of Andy Goldsworthy, an environmental artist who uses only natural materials to create temporary pieces celebrating patterns and systems found in nature.
While we didn’t exactly view ourselves as a group of budding Michelangelos, or, for that matter, Goldsworthys, we still took up the task of creating our own inspired pieces using materials from around Arcadia.
With advance notice of the project early in the semester, we were allowed not only time to brainstorm ideas but also to gather natural things possibly unavailable come building time. We were also lucky enough to have class time with Dr. Jenny MacGregor (SLU class of ’81), an SLU instructor with a Ph.D. in psychology and specialty in creativity. She led a discussion on the project during our orientation in August and then led a workshop in September on natural material use in outdoor sculpture. Armed with her tips and techniques, we all prepared to dive into our own projects.
The students each picked their own materials and built off their own interpretations of Goldsworthy’s work to create unique structures and sculptures scattered around our grounds.
So for one day at the beginning of October, Arcadia became the venue for this year’s much anticipated and much sought after arts exhibit on Massawepie Lake. Lucky for our readers, Gale and Blaze were on site to snag the exclusive inside scoop on what was unveiled at this year’s opening.
Mac presented his “Three Entities” as three beings that had all seen the same things, in their nook in the forest, but experienced these things differently. He related this to people and members of a community that often deal with the same situations, but bring different angles to varying experiences. His twig structures received oohs and ahs, especially his floating entity suspended by pieces of braided grass.
Terra’s project made us all wish we were small enough to enjoy the underworld she created by accentuating the natural holes found in the root system of the forest. She covered the holes with sticks with only one main “opening” to increase the illusion of a dark underworld.
Bud used a full jar’s worth of collected berries stuck in the crevices of a white pine tree to suggest veins, and thereby highlighted the living aspects of the tree. The contrast of the wood to berries not only made the art piece pop but also showcased the intricate bark patterns that are often overlooked.
James only needed fourteen sticks for his piece. Hanging from tree limbs, each stick represented one member of our community members at Arcadia. Linked together in a kind of web, they demonstrated our interdependence.
Rocky’s project was inspired by the colors of fall! She used two different kinds of leaves as well as ferns to create “upside-down mountains” that provided a hint of life and color to a dead birch tree.
Flick carefully constructed a twigged nest, piece by piece, that built up to one opening or viewing space. Through the hole, a ring of rainbow color leaves (yes, even a blue one!) resembled the circle of life.
Ray’s project was a lesson in balance and careful placement. After much searching, she found four uniquely shaped sticks to create, when placed together, a single flowing circular structure. The delicate balance of the four pieces’ placements into one entity demonstrated the fragility of the ecosystem.
Ty experimented with the relationship between life and the human mind. She used different colored rings of mud, positioned around a dark hole, to represent the cycles of life and the process of rebirth. Her piece was a homage to dirt, the source of agriculture: our food, our life.
Blue’s experience as a pro braider helped her in her effort to weave together a string of maple leaves. The leaves were spiraled in a “shell” fashion over a meticulously set patch of pine needles. The transition of colors in the leaves were said to mimic what can be seen in nature.
The goal of Story’s project was to have as small an impact as possible on the land. She used only materials in her site’s immediate area to construct a twig sculpture inspired by Goldsworthy’s eggs.
Using beech leaves, Gale made a chain of leaves that hung from a living beech tree into the water. The transitioning of the leaves’ colors aided in her portrayal of a continuation from the live tree to the dead leaves in the water.
David used lake grasses on a dead log to comment on the temporality of all things. A “short term” disguise covered the limb only to slowly unravel and return to the lake.
No matter the materials or the inspiration, each work was a complete success!
Your favorite art critics,
Gale & David