Great art inspires. . .
Last year my great friend Deena took me to a favorite spot of hers, a grove in the Presidio National Park where the forest opens to a beautiful panorama of San Francisco, right in front of you. It’s a spiritual spot, and a meditative one. It was easy to see why she brought me here. When it was decided that a monument to should be installed here, only one artist could do a place like this justice, celebrating but not changing it: Andy Goldsworthy.
So, in 2008, he built SPIRE. The amazing thing about this monumental sculpture, made of timber lashed together 90 feet high, is how effortlessly it has become part of the scene. It blends right in. This is a hallmark of Goldsworthy’s work, he incorporates natural materials from the site in which he’s working and from them he creates beautiful, fanciful and ephemeral art. Here, he took trees that would be felled (for the safety of the environment) and then used only that timber to make the sculpture. Part of the art is not only the finished state, but also the manner in which it is, in turn, reclaimed again by Nature. And will the sculpture last a minute? Two? Months? Years? That part is left to Nature, too.
Goldsworthy strives, “to make connections between what we call nature and what we call man-made.”
There is another Goldsworthy I want to tell you about, much more subtle than Spire. It’s the crack in the foundation of the de Young museum, Faultline, 2005. For this commission he created a zigzag crack in the hardscape outside the museum. The crack is a ‘path’ from the roadside to the entrance of the museum, but also serves as a subtle reminder of the seismic activity latent in the ground underneath, a characteristic of this place in the world. Unless your eyes are directed to it you might not see it but when it’s pointed out, the impact hits you immediately. Check out this great article about that piece, here.
I’ve since become a fan of his. I was so inspired after having seen Spire I created a mini-version in my backyard garden. For mine I reclaimed dead bamboo shoots from my friend’s garden, and the Hancock Spire was born!
Not willing to stop here, I wanted to try another one. I had my opportunity when my neighbor knocked down their retaining wall and threw away the cobblestones. Thus, I gained ‘site-native’ materials for another project, and I built a zigzag ‘Faultline’ of my own by setting the stones directly into the ground, and emanating from my Spire!
My exploration of the public art in Hayes Valley, Ecstasy in Patricia’s Green, (link to post here) reminds me of the monumental and inspiring Spire. While the scale of both projects certainly inspires awe, simply by virtue of their height which forces the eye skyward, they also are partnered in my mind because of the artistic process behind them. While they differ in the sourcing of the materials, Ecstasy made from man-made objects while Spire is made from felled trees, both make from found materials sing. These monuments speak to how repurposing an everday object, even a discarded one, can imbue the art with an added significance and intrinsic beauty.
I discovered this IMMENSE six ton, 30-foot figurative sculpture while taking a scooter ride from Civic Center through Hayes Valley back to the Castro. Created by Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito, her name is “Ecstasy”. . .
“Her name expresses a sudden change of attitude and belief in hope; a moment of being overcome by passionate optimism” -www.blackrockarts.org
Assembled from discarded pieces of scrap metal, this sculpture has a kind of “recycled” life that transcends the composition of her body.
The statement is powerful. I am always moved when someone makes something new from something old, discarded. It’s what I’ve been trying to do in my own garden, too. All it takes is to allow a change in perspective and context. Imagination. And with that, something gains a new life.
As inspiring as it is, the sculpture is just a temporary resident of the park. ‘Ecstasy’ is on loan from the Black Rock Arts Foundation through December 31, 2010.
Patricia’s Green, the park that serves as the home for Ecstasy, is relatively new. Not far from the Hayes Valley Farm, this stretch of Octavia, too, was renovated by the city in 2005 with the goal of beautification, and fostering pedestrian traffic and community-building. Thus Patricia’s Green was born. The Green includes not only benches and food carts, flower beds and playgrounds but, early on, the community decided it should be a venue for significant public art, as well. Residents and business work together via the neighborhood Hayes Valley Arts Coalition to curate the art that will serve as a beating ‘heart’ for the neighborhood.
Thank goodness everyone involved saw the street and overpass that used to cut through this neighborhood and envisioned something. . .else. A farm. A park. Art. Not unlike the Hayes Valley Farm mere blocks away, Patricia’s Green, and the arts program that serves it, provide another good example of how neglected public space can be repurposed by transforming what was “broken” (and “deadening”) into something that is its opposite: one that is beautiful, that is functional (and function-ing) and one that brings people together. I love that. San Franciscans are good at doing it!
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