Some 24 inches (61 cm) of snow fell on Saturday with blizzard conditions across the State and along the East Coast of the US. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay in and be warm, and found it a magnificent storm from that vantage point.
The woods did fill up with snow. My installation also got a good covering but remains intact.
Winter has arrived with a vengeance so now time to reflect on the complete installation.
The process of making it, at work in public space and with living plants, was surprising in two different but related dimensions, the audience and the materials.
I realize that my newly engaged audience, interested in the piece over the period of its assembly, really wants to interact with the artist and the installation. It becomes of increased personal significance when the image development is direct, visible, responsive and maybe takes a little time?
“My family and I are temporary visitors to the Institute for Advanced Study. Thank you for your recent installation of public art on Springdale Road. It has been a real treat to walk past every day and wonder who or what is coming next. The children have commented each time, and argued about the animal being walked, even though it’s clearly a dog! Thank you for doing it.”
The practical support I received (with cutting head materials), and advice (‘keep going you have more space’) all improved the work, and combined with regular shots of enthusiasm from passers-by while I was on site, were an enriching source of positive feedback into the project.
Secondly, having the flexibility to choose and work with the materials I could gather locally and easily carve proved to be a sound strategy. I developed a sense of simplicity in form and an eye for contrasts in surface texture, learning that as with a painting, each figure or element affects the entire piece.
Andy Goldsworthy views his outdoor installations of living material as being at their ‘best’ when they are just completed and naturally that is when he completes his documentation, since their fragile ephemeral nature (e.g.Dandelion flowers pinned with thorns to rosebay willow herb stalks. 1985) and often precarious placement by the artist means that inevitably the materials will dissemble and decay fairly rapidly. In contrast, in the case of the epiphytes (moss), symbionts (lichen) and saprophytes (fungi) attached to the wood and bark I used, moving them gave them access to more water, more light and less competition for both by being brought into a new stable environment. As a result and with mild moist weather they thrived and grew.
It seems likely that this installation could continue to develop as a small and thus fragile but sustaining ecosystem for much longer than I originally envisioned, and I shall observe and document this with interest. A new theme and direction for my work has emerged.
John Muir would not be surprised “ When we try to pick out anything by itself we find it hitched to everything else in the universe”.
From Muir, J (1911) My First Summer in the Sierra, Houghton Mifflin, Boston)
The weather has been mild for the past few weeks until now, which is unusual here in December. In response to the warmer and wetter conditions several of the species growing on the bark and wood of my installation have either continued to grow or some new species have colonized and are doing well. You can see a ‘new’ colonizing brown shiny fungus (Auricularia sp.)in the photograph above.
It’s as though the whole piece is thriving, living and settling in. Not at all what I expected. Only the ivy has wilted a little, until recently.