From the Global to the Local:
A Detailed View of Environmental Art & the Creative Process Within
Daniel M. Podrasky
Dr. Davies-Vollum & Dr. Cheryl Greengrove
Earth houses a
complex civilization of people who not only seek to understand the world on an
intimate, personal, and individual level, but also on a global level. However, civilization depends not only on the
evolution from the personal to the global through pure and truthful communication,
but communication that will allow the observer to step into the purity of that
exchange and take what one connects to, with the intention that it will result
in the birth of a profound shift on an individual and global level. In order to understand how an individual
person can allow an observer to have a pure experience and cultivate a positive
shift on both the individual and societal level, we must evaluate not only the
method of communication necessary in order to achieve this, but also how the
observer and presenter make a connection to this innate cyclic process and the
results from such a connection.
Moreover, it was not until I recently traveled from the
order to understand this fundamental cyclic nature between the global and local
and how communication through art gives the observer a pure experience, I first
decided to research the artist Andy Goldsworthy whom is from
globally diverse, remote, and rather extreme areas of the world including the Lakes District in the United Kingdom, the North Pole, and Australian Outback (Goldsworthy, 2000).
Goldsworthy’s sculptures made out of ice, twigs, stones, leaves, and reeds play with the human connection to place and time—two very significant concepts that remain ephemeral and non-conceptualized by man—ultimately leading to his ability in playing off the observers visual experience to create a sense of urgency in the state of our environment. For instance, an example of the fragility and timelessness of Goldsworthy’s work is illustrated in the following photograph of a sculpture titled Icicle Stack:
When Andy Goldsworthy spends 14 solid hours creating the ice sculpture—as seen in the above figure—only to watch it melt within a 13 minute period of time as the sun rises,
Goldsworthy only gives the viewer a pleasant aesthetic experience, but most importantly an elemental connection to the Earth, a sense time, and the message that humanity must feel a sense of urgency in helping to restore, or save our Earth and its systems from destruction.
Andy Goldsworthy’s work not only clearly exemplifies this sense of global urgency that we must cultivate towards the Earth, but his sculptures also transcend words, writing, and other forms of conceptualized communication to reach a place deeper and more precise: A place of connecting to the basic elemental nature of healing. However, before we can understand the true implications of Goldsworthy’s work, we must first understand the basic connection that humans have to the Earth and nature itself.
For example, one way of gaining an idea of how an individual’s healing is linked to their respect of the environment is by evaluating, on a global level, how numerous ancient cultures have integrated aspects respect for the Earth into their culture and are both physically and mentally connected to their environment. For instance, Buddhist philosopher and environmentalist Chogyam Trungpa examines this primitive connection to the Earth along with ones global and local experience in his book titled Training the Mind and Cultivating Loving-Kindness when he writes the following:
When human beings lose their connection to nature, to heaven and earth, then they do not know how to nurture their environment. Healing our society goes hand in hand with healing our personal, elemental connection with the phenomenal world. (145)
Trungpa is able to bring the rather broad subjects within art into an all-encompassing perspective by relating the larger topic of the Earth to the elemental and basic connection it has to life, the smaller aspect of the individual, and most importantly the psychological connection between the healing of the Earth and of the self. Therefore, we can ultimately see that healing, or shifting our personal and global relationship to the Earth is dependent upon our connection to the Earth, and the catalyst for this profound change is our aesthetic relationship to nature. Moreover, the use of art gives the power of non-conceptualized aesthetic creations that Goldsworthy ultimately uses to effectively communicate his intention of ultimately cultivating both a personal and local along with a larger or global shift towards healing the Earth.
Although Goldsworthy or other artists’ intentions may seem clear to others, it is important that they are able to precisely explain the message behind a work without destroying the personal experience of the viewer due to that artists projection. For instance, Simon Schama in an article published in The New Yorker titled “The Stone Gardener-The Art World” depicts Goldsworthy’s multidimensional intention and interest in global change through his personal artwork when Schama writes the following:
Goldsworthy believes—as a matter of historical fact and his own individual taste—that the social and the natural are not mutually exclusive…He makes the suburbs do un-suburban things, obliging to remember the harder rural history over which they have been comfortably laid. (3)
This clearly serves as an example as to Goldsworthy’s intention behind the aspect of setting to which he creates his sculptures in. While alluding to his personal message that our world is rather an interdependent system that works on both a global and local scale, Goldsworthy also points to our global systems failure to acknowledge the need for a massive shift towards the Earth’s restoration in the future.
genuinely comprehending Goldsworthy’s background, work, intentions, and message
while developing a philosophical framework in understanding the relationship
between communication, art, the global, and local, I began to realize that just
as Andy Goldsworthy has, other artists have been successful in moving their personal, or local intentions into larger, or global
projects. Moreover, this shift towards
environmental art, also known as eco-art, has distinct characteristics and
attributes that are important to identify on a universal level before we can
continue to understand eco-art in both
The term environmental art has been used to categorize art of any type that has a multidimensional approach to examining the current state of affairs, humanity, and how civilization has and will continue to affect the Earth (Weintraub, 2006). However, the specific purpose of environmental art is to bring awareness to the growing problems our Earth is facing without harming the Earth in any manner. The four key components of eco-art include the following: First, expanding art’s key relationship to the visual sense by creating multi-sensory works; Second, reconfiguring time to bring it into alignment with evolutionary change including past and future conditions that lie beyond the artist’s lifetime; Third, rather than taking up space, create works that move through space; and
fourth, the artists celebrate human aspiration without glorifying individual personality (Weintraub, 2006). Thus, we can see that Andy Goldsworthy’s work, for instance, is multi-sensory in that it is 3-dimensional, examines time and place by setting and materials, moves through space by working outdoors, and is clearly distinct of Goldsworthy’s style but points to a larger meaning.
addition to examining Goldsworthy’s global work in terms of putting it into a
classical “eco-art” framework, we can begin to view the local art of
While it is important to notice Tout Quarry’s history and geological properties, it is also important to examine how and why this obsolete quarry has turned into an eco-restoration project that draws artists on a global level. For example, the geological
composition of the
addition to evaluating how the geological composition of Tout Quarry has
resulted in its use as both a building stone and now artistic site, we can view
how an artist has created a sculpture specific to Tout Quarry that exemplifies
a universal message at a local site within
Fallen Fossil came after regular visits to the Museum of Natural History, where I was attracted by some fossils embedded in the matrix stone, punctuating the rough broken quality of the stone…Fallen Fossil looks back towards fossils, and forwards towards architecture…You think of London as a positive sculpture -- you can't think of it without this stone, the positive outcome of this negative space here. (2)
Marsden not only implies how his work integrates with that of Weintraub’s eco-art framework, but as to how his work specifically relates to the geology of the site. As for the former, Marsden’s work is multi-dimensional in that it is a sculpture, it examines the essence of time through the content of rock and fossil, it moves within the environment, and marks an individuals vision with the quest to send a universal message through personal interpration. As for the lattar, Marsden makes specific reference to how both the
Museum of Natural History inspired his work along with the setting to which he was going to create it for.
Furthermore, it is not only important to examine the written intention of an artist, but it is of equal value to examine the work from a personal perspective based on your own experience. Thus, the following is an image of Masden’s work titled Fallen Fossill from Tout Quarry near Chesil Beach in England:
When viewing this image, one can begin to understand not only a conceptual background and how it is part of a eco-art project at Tout Quarry and effort towards the reclamation of land, but also a stunning work of art that evokes feelings of beatuty, transcendence, remembrance through the trace-fossil-like sculpture, and craftsmanship.
I was able to understand both the global and local aspect of Tout Quarry and
the relationship it had within the world, I was surprised when I was able to
find very similar environmental and reclamation art projects within the greater
is a land work created by Robert Morris titled Johnson Pit #30. However, some argue that Johnson Pit #30, and a multitude of other reclamation projects within the Seattle-Tacoma area, are merely a distraction. As author Thomas Heyd puts it in his response titled Revisiting the Artistic Reclamation of Nature, “Perhaps it is held that if a gravel pit or a landfill site can be turned into an artwork, viewers would perhaps forget the troubled history and surrounds of these places”(2). Indeed, they may be distracted by the innovativeness of Morris; however, we must find a balance in acknowledge the new-found beauty of a rebirth in a lands once troubling past while maintaining an awareness of its history.
the other hand, another local site in the
In comparison to Morris’ work Johnson Pit #30, many would argue that Bayer’s work is a true Earth reclamation in that it is serving the Earth and the people by cultivating awareness in society about the lands purpose, is multi-dimensional in its functionality, and moves through the land while maintaining an aesthetic appearance as well.
while it is essential to question how we relate to our world, environment, and
the art within it, it is also imperative to reflect upon our own experience, and
perhaps create your own work. Thus, my
return home from
When composing the song Con mi Spiritu I decided to record my vocal part several times, in harmony with both similar and different intonations to establish a feeling of a deep, resonating calmness: A dark sound that gives illumination to a basic chant like chorus that would guide a feeling of resonance within the listener. Also, I decided to use a made-up language of phonetic sounds that are similar to Latin in order to allow the listener to enter into a realm of pure sounds rather than a forced message communicated through a language. Therefore, my intention was to create a pure, multi-layered vocal piece that would allow listeners to step into another “world” in order to transcend our conceptual boundaries and reach towards a place of healing and growth, which will hopefully inspire others towards positive aspirations and contributions to humanity.
In conclusion, my
Jane., Palmer, Tim.
Goldsworthy—Refuges D’ Art.
Heyd, Thomas. The
Trumpeter: Revisiting the Artistic
Reclamation of Nature.
Schama, Simon. “The Stone Gardener-The Art World”. The New Yorker: Critics; The Art World.
Earth System History: Second
Trungpa, Chogyam. Training the Mind and Cultivating
“Final Thoughts: Eco-Art in Practice”.