Description of the Unit –
Students will explore Andy Goldsworthy’s ephemeral land art, then venture outside to come up with their own environmental sculptures.
Activity statement –
Andy Goldsworthy is known as an environmental or land artist. What this means is that he uses natural artifacts—branches, leaves, rocks, ice, etc.—to create his sculptures and installations. Goldsworthy’s art is also temporary. He never creates anything that won’t eventually be destroyed by waves, wind and natural processes. Goldsworthy invites the viewer to contemplate the ephemeral, transitory beauty of the natural world. His works involve the use of pattern, color and balance. Interestingly, all of the color in his work comes from the objects themselves, never from him painting any of it. So for example, if you look at the image that looks like a tree trunk ringed with glowing light or fire, he simply used fallen gold and orange leaves to give it that effect.
Students really enjoy observing Goldsworthy’s art, and were always super excited to go out onto the school grounds to see what they could come up with. I let them work individually or in pairs, and we are fortunate enough to have a natural space adjacent to the school for students to play and look for items to make sculptures. Indeed, this lesson is a great one for play-based art-making.
The two art elements that are emphasized for this unit are color and pattern. As we observe examples of Goldsworthy’s work I ask questions about how he uses color, and ways color draws our eyes to certain parts of his sculptures. We observe the patterns he makes, and I ask students to point to those patterns and describe them. When students create their land art they are tasked with finding ways to use color, pattern or both in its construction.
I try to encourage the students to work in pairs, or sometimes even in threes, as it gives them an opportunity to practice cooperative art making, and its wonderful to listen to them communicate ideas with each other, to watch who delegates, to see how they compromise and so forth.
Now a big part of Goldsworthy’s own process is photographing the sculptures. So as I grew more comfortable guiding the students through this unit I developed ways in which to let them also photograph their work. The best way I found to do this is buying disposable cameras and giving them a few quick tips on composition and framing, asking that they especially pay close attention to anything else that may be in the picture: they should only have their artwork in the picture, and nothing else. If they were too little to really get a good angle, then I would find a way to raise them higher before actually taking the photo myself.
- What environmental, or land art is
- What might make a work of art temporary
- Who Andy Goldsworthy is and the type of art he creates
Be able to:
- Create their own environmental sculpture based on color and pattern
Students will: use color and pattern to create at least one temporary land sculpture
Resources and materials –
- Examples of Goldsworthy’s work
- An outdoor space with enough natural objects or debris for students to make a sculpture or two
- Disposable or other cameras on which students can take photos of their sculptures
- What do you notice about the way Goldsworthy has arranged the objects?
- How long do you think it takes him to make one of these sculptures?
- Do you think these sculptures are beautiful? Why or why not?
- Can you point to any patterns Goldsworthy has used?
- Can you describe ways in which Goldsworthy used color for (x) sculpture?
- What do you think happens to these sculptures over time? Do you think they last forever?
- How does it make you feel that some art doesn’t last?
- How would you feel if art that you made eventually disappeared? Why?
- What kind of compositions can you arrange out of the natural objects surrounding you?
- What kinds of natural elements (leaves, sticks, rocks, petals) might you like to use?
Evaluation – Did students:
- Understand how to arrange an environmental sculpture with an emphasis on color and pattern?
- Group discussion
- Oral responses to essential questions
- At least one finished piece