Who in their life hasn’t walked on a river bank and pocketed a two-toned rock, a discarded feather or a rosy, speckled leaf, drawn by its colour, texture or unusual shape? Who hasn’t piled up river stones or beach pebbles in wobbly towers? Who hasn’t trailed a stick along the beach sand?
When I describe the boxes full of feathers, leaves, shells etc. I have amassed over the years and how basketmaking gave me a valid excuse for hoarding this ephemera, a reason to get outside and up-close with nature, almost everyone nods in appreciation. Everyone understands this elemental attraction.
There are many artists who take this fascination a step further and re-arrange natural elements temporarily in situ or assemble their findings into sculpture shown in galleries. The movement, pioneered in the 1960’s by artists such as American Alan Sonfist, is collectively known as ‘land art’ ‘nature art’ or ‘earth art’.
Sonfist conceived ‘Time Landscape’, pictured above, in 1965 as one of the early examples of modern* Nature Art. He planted ancient indigenous tree species on a vacant block in urban Manhattan creating an oasis of growth in the city and a reference to what might have been.
Many famous ephemeral works (such as those in my previous blog posts on Patrick Dougherty ) tend to be very large and involve earth moving equipment or teams of volunteers.
Australian Andrew Rogers is the creator of the world’s largest contemporary land art undertaking pictured above. Titled “Rhythms of Life”, the project commenced in 1998 and at present comprises 49 massive stone structures (geoglyphs) across 13 countries on seven continents and has involved over 7,000 people.
However Nature Art can also be so small as to fit on the back of a single leaf and as temporary as until the next gust of breeze.
Celebrated British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy has explored all ends of the spectrum with his works being created in frozen landscapes, inside major galleries and on city rooftops. He uses the magical tools of temperature, sunlight, tides and balance as his glue or his brush.
All these people, whether making an environmental statement or simply celebrating the marvels we overlook every day, are creating sacred spaces to contemplate the world and our place in it. I saw recently ‘time in nature’ listed as one of the 7 essential ingredients for happiness. Certainly, we all benefit from taking a walk or sitting quietly under a tree. Studying our surroundings and creating a work of art at the same time? Double happiness.
So to boost my happiness, I have invited amazing contemporary sculptor, Shona Wilson to run an Autumn ephemeral art workshop here on my parents beautiful property in the Southern Highlands (1.5 hours drive from Sydney airport, 2 hours from Canberra). I christened her the Goddess of Small Things in a blog post of the same name, and her gallery work is extraordinary.
Shona has agreed to run her workshop, called “Collaborations With Nature” on Saturday April 5th and we will spend the day together learning about, making and photographing nature art as well as eating a delicious communal lunch from the veggie garden. Bookings are open to everyone but places are strictly limited to 11 (the 12th is me!).
The focus is investigative, process orientated and experiential. The workshop will provide the time, space and inspiration for you to create works using only the materials and elements found on site at the workshop. I will provide a framework of ideas, and a safe and inspiring environment for you to create in a meaningful and positive way bringing with me the knowledge and experience of collecting, processing and re-assembling a myriad of materials. Your ‘keepsake’ from the experience will be in the form of photographs, writings, recordings and memory.
I will also be holding my random weaving basketry workshop at the same venue on the Friday (the day before) so if you are craving a natural high you can get a big creative hit and spend two days making with us in the bush! The link to the bookings page and all the details for the classes are up on my workshops page.
It’s going to be so lovely – I hope you can join us and we will create some sacred spaces together.
* I suppose it could be argued that any of the indigenous or tribal art using barks, ochres or the assemblage of rocks as temples or totems are the first land art.
Thanks to Walter Mason for making the photographs above of his work available for use under a creative commons license. You can see many more at his wonderful Flickr doubleyou_em Photostream. Click on all other images to open their online source.