We all watched Rivers and Tides, a documentary film about artist Andy Goldsworthy and his work. Here are our responses.

From Tasha

Keiko asked me to expand on what I was trying to say, that is very hard…but I’m going to try.
Love comes to me more easily when I think of my family or social justice. When I create dinner for someone I care about or make food for a party. When I make art for a cause it is easier for me. But I find it much harder when trying to tap into my psyche for the sole purpose of making art; maybe that is why that is much harder to do.

Love for me is about connection, being still, authentic, giving, receiving, joy, compassion. When I can tap into this, I feel joyful and warm, my heart feels light and at ease. My family generally responds with happy smiles and encouragement.
I remember reading about Oxytocin (the hormone released with breastfeeding) a true manifestation of motherly love; it brings feelings of joy and unlimited love for all. I read once that this same hormone is actually released when you feed someone dinner. I think that it probably is released whenever you are giving of yourself. And it fills you with warmth and good feelings, a mutual benefit is had.

I think Goldsworthy captures “love” with his honor of the natural world. His wonder and fascination with impermanence. His works seem to speak of the fragility of us all and the beauty that is fleeting. By bending the natural world into art and utilizing organic resources he shows us that it is all right here.

Rivers and Tides:
Andy Goldsworthy is an amazing artist.
His art packs a powerful visual impact, his love for nature, beauty and respect is clear. Love, that is what rings threw for me, some might call it passion, but I think a pure love is a key ingredient for any artist (or creative work) when I put my love into my cooking it always turns out wonderful, I feel the love for my family, the beauty of nature (ingredients) and all the hands that made it possible for me to create a meal.
When I focus my love of art into my art I loose myself, and create. We become one.

I think Andy G. looses himself deeply in his art because of his love and wonder of the natural world. Especially the fragility of nature, the impermanence. That is clearly transmitted.


From Sarah:

Andy Goldsworthy’s Rivers and Tides truly captures the essences of art and creativity. He is able to utilize art to its fullest. Many artists today use art as a form of entertainment, fame and sometimes expression. Andy’s work is much more than that. He is not seeking fame for most of his work disappears with a slight change of weather. Although his work often is pleasant to the eye it most defiantly isn’t light in content; making it difficult to classify his work as joyful entertainment. Andy is doing more with his work then just expressing himself he is searching for truth in the world and enlightenment.
It is almost as if Andy’s work is a religious experience for him. Through his art he is trying to understand the world and it s resources. He is trying to use his life to understand the world in order to use its resources to their ultimate potential.
Patience is his medium. He has synchronized his life with the natural flow of time and accepted this pace as his own. This created immense patience and low levels of stress, frustration and anxiety. The fact that Andy has mastered patience enables him to have a deeper understanding of his discoveries through his art. A famous Rabbi Israel was critical of those who learn fast. "If people learn without depth and understanding, how will they cultivate awe and humility?" (Sparks of Mussar, p. 10). One can not grasp the whole experience of their learning if they are in a rush.
One day a very poor man can to the great Rav Moshe Feinstein and complained about his awful circumstances and how they were an obstacle to his learning and praying. "In this day and age," said Rabbi Moshe, "the greatest devotion, greater than learning and praying, consists in accepting the world exactly as it happens to be." (Buber, Tales of the Hasidim, Later Masters, p. 166). Andy Goldsworthy is trying to do this. He uses the earth as his pallet, to better understand it and appreciate it.
If we all use our creative powers such as Andy does, in order to explore our world and our surroundings, to help us think about life, we will appreciate our circumstance more. We will enjoy our lives and find comfort in our homes such as Andy mentioned; His love of being home more often. We will be rich because one who is rich is fulfilled by his share.

From Diana:

Rivers and Tides

The film ‘Rivers and Tides’ was a fascinating, if somewhat long, look at the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy. As I was watching the film, I was trying to think how I would describe what the film was about. What I came away with was that Goldsworthy was trying to capture the connectedness of all things and his connectedness to the land through his art. He even said in the film that if he has been away from his work for a period of time, say a few weeks, he himself begins to feel disconnected.
I was especially fascinated by his ice sculpture early in the film. How really beautiful his ice sculpture was when it was complete. An overarching theme in his work, as illustrated in the title of the film, is rivers. You can see this in the ribbon like shape with its peaks and troughs that he uses repeatedly in his sculptures. Goldsworthy himself talked about the river or life, the river of time and rivers of water. The river pattern of the ice sculpture weaving in and out of the rock illustrated the concept of the passage of a river through a mountain, wearing down the rock and becoming a part of the mountain over time. The ice also embodies the connection between the water and the rock. As ice, the water is in a rock like state, solid like a rock, but still water. Although hard, the ice is also transitory; once the sun came out the sculpture had the potential of melting and changing back into its original shape of water.
There was this sculpture, out in the middle of nowhere, with no one to see it. It reminded me of what I said about my writing. It’s almost as if I were writing to myself. In this sense, Goldsworthy seems to be moved to create, not with the idea that he is creating for someone else’s appreciation; essentially he is creating because he is simply moved to create. I found myself envying him his life. In the film Goldsworthy captured his immersion in the environment. He moved through the landscape and became a part of the earth. Once familiar with a new place, he was moved to echo his understanding of his surroundings through his works of art. What a beautiful and satisfying life. For most of us, life is an exercise in conforming to what is happening around us. Goldsworthy has carved out a life that is wholly his creation. He has immersed himself in the physical world and spends his days creating so that he can relay what he senses to himself and to us.
This is really fascinating to me. I have been exposed, in the short time this class has been operational, to so many new types of art that I hadn’t known existed. In the film ‘Rivers and Tides’, Goldsworthy seemed to be showing me that all facets of his life were a work of art. Everything that we do throughout our day has that potential; I think I need to slow down and start appreciating my life and the work of art that it is.

From Penny:

What an absolutely delightful film! I have one of his books, “A Collaboration With Nature”, but never did see how he worked. Both my 20 year old son and I watched the movie, totally enthralled. I don’t recall ever feeling as connected to nature while viewing a movie.
I loved how he would begin the stone structure (egg shaped) in the tide over and over again, stating that as the point of collapse moved further along in the project his impression was that he was learning more about Rock, which at the beginning he understood he knew little. It was a peaceful movie about his art, nature and of course him. The one scene of his family life I found intriguing. It was chaotic and he seemed loosely barricaded from the noise and excitement as he sat eating his breakfast. Later in a candid hotel room interview, we discover that he finds other people, in fact, what was his word?, ‘intrusive”. I understood this and was also slightly disturbed by this.
It became clear to me that he vibrates in this world on another frequency than most of us. And this he must do in order to have the insight, inspiration, commitment, connection, and what I consider an aesthetic that calls deeply into my core and that I might cautiously describe as ‘divine’. He becomes part of and uses the manifestations of the environment to capture the interdependence and interrelatedness of that which is the environment. I loved his rebuttal to his wife, when she asked what he was going to do today. Paraphrasing my interpretation it went something like, “where did you come from? Of course I don’t know (you don’t know that?!) Its spontaneous!” He leaves and nothing is known. He opens himself to time and elements and without judgment around difficulty or discomfort he surrenders to his inspiration. I am deeply moved by his work.
And yet, here is a man, he has four daughters, a wife and home. He has built a career that affords him his art. Yet, is there something he misses? Something that I value as much as nature itself-the connection to those I love. In projecting this value of mine onto him, I wonder about his life as a husband and father. Does his dedication to his work compromise his ability to be an engaged participant in the workings of his family? I only ask this as this is a question for me as an artist. Andrew Goldsworthy appears to be driven without any consideration of choice. I, not being as heavily wired in this direction am always having to make a judgment call - to choose between what I should be doing (for family or work) and what I yearn to be doing - for love of self and consequently, creative expression. Selfishly I am glad for his devotion for the outcome is creativity in its highest form. And I hold a piece of envy for this unwavering devotion and the complete integration into his life of that which gives him such deep pleasure. So who am I to say that there is another, perhaps simpler pleasure. A pleasure, perhaps overly weighted in value, that I have created in my life to fulfill a place that creative drive has yet had the opportunity to satisfy.

From Donna:
If anyone still needs to view ‘Rivers and Tides,’ I purchased a copy. I can leave it at the ESC office is that is convenient; just let me know.
It wasn’t long into the film before I realized I was familiar with Andy Goldsworthy. When my youngest son attended Sunwise School, the art teacher had a book of his art; and she planned a field trip (I went along) for the students to go up to Split Rock (part of Minniwaska State Park) to create their own art work. Oh my Goddess it was amazing! What those ‘kids’ came up with was incredible! One young man made a web with stick between two trees. Others made a huge turtle out of rocks on a huge flat bed of rock right in the stream. Some girls made floating flower designs in swirly puddles they created near the stream. The coolest thing though, was "fire on water." One young man found a huge rock with a flat top and found a spot in the stream where the water level flowed just below the top surface of the rock. He built a campfire on the top of the rock; and was further impressive was that he had it set up to light with one match and it worked. It looked like fire floating right on top of the water.
I would like to share my reflections on the film. The first sentiments that come to me are breathtaking ... inspirational; of course. ... But as I watched I also began to notice a trait in Andy Goldsworthy that I think is a common trait, whether fortunate or not, to all artistic or creative people; and that is "drive." ... Is it just me, or when the spark of an idea turns into steam, and steam turns into fire and inspiration, and the idea of completing something is decided upon (!) ...then time stops until your idea is tangible for all to see. ...In one way it is very much like giving birth, exhausting and productive. ...In another way, it robs you of everything else in your life; a pod of time away from your people; everything else shut out, but it doesn’t wait for you. It’s all still there needing "to be done" before you can exhale. ... In the fabric of your life it might seem like a flaw or a metaphysical tumor; or it might be the sparkles. I guess it’s all subject to sole specter. ...
... I gave pause to "specter" watching Andy. He sort of made me think about the tormented artist. He is always being driven; and in his drive, I noticed moments of torment; in the racing of time, and the collapse of hes creations. ...It helped me take pause to keep artistic disappointments in perspective. ...I think the lessons I need to learn is to pace the things that that lead me to feel driven. As I get older I am embracing "the now" more than I used to. I am learning to enjoy the journey, and not keep my sites so set on the destination. In fact, I think I will make that my mantra.
Another thing I noticed that I have a hunch is also a trait of a creative people; that one cannot talk about a piece until it is done. ...When Andy’s wife asked him what he was going to make that afternoon, without hesitation he told her he didn’t know, yet he had taken only about ten steps (if that) out the door before he started collecting yellow flowers, which were his project that afternoon. ... I think when one decides to create something, it doesn’t come in words, it comes in concepts and pictures and ideas. Suddenly being asked to describe it brings in into another realm. Sometimes words cannot describe inspirations. The truth is, for me things almost never turn out as I"initially" picture them. It is all very much a work in progress; and lately I keep a journal and a picture journal of things I decide to make.

From: Linda
Rivers and Tides really resonated with me, first because it exalts nature and highlights the beauty of a nature-based lifestyle (much like that of my childhood), and second because it focuses on artworks created within the framework of nature. I've always considered myself to be artistically-challenged because I can't draw; but Andrew Goldworthy's brand of art is not only something that I can do but something that I have done. As a child, I built both stone walls, which were the real property delineator of choice in our neck of the woods, and stone sculptures along the lines of Goldworthy's "seeds". Using only materials found in nature, we also built treehouses, dams, huts and lean-tos, snow forts, and sand castles. The idea that I could ever be a professional architect is laughable for many reasons - can't use a slide rule, can't begin to do the math necessary to calculate load stress, can't draw enough to depict even the most elemental design features. But I can erect primitive shelters using nature's own building materials, and I think that makes me and every child who builds a sand castle an artist in the Goldsworthy mold.
Sarah's remark about Goldsworthy's art being for him a religious experience and Diana's remarks about Goldsworthy's fascination with water and its relationship to time brought to mind so much religious symbolism. All the major religions on earth celebrate water as our link with the sacred, and each also draws comparisons between moving water and the passage of time. As I was watching Rivers and Tides, some well-known hymn lyrics were going through my mind:

Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all her sons away
They fly forgotten as a dream dies at the opening day.

Soon we'll gather at the river
The beautiful, the beautiful river
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God

Goldsworthy has no illusions regarding the ephemeral nature of humanity and its art; he knows that it will pass away despite the best intentions and efforts to preserve it; he creates it, nevertheless, for beauty in the moment.
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From Missy

Rivers and Tides
When I first began to watch this documentary by Andy Goldsworthy, I wasn’t quite sure I would enjoy it. I have to admit, I was very moved by this film. Here is a man who is truly living his dream. I have never before seen a human being who is as visibly passionate about his work (or should I say his life) as he is. To him, the land is as much a part of him as he is of it. He gets nourishment from the land, and although the land does not need him he needs it.
Nova Scotia, Canada
Andy spoke about how he doesn’t like to travel because of his need to be continuously working. Travel causes him to feel uprooted and lost, like a tree or a plant when pulled out of the earth, as if he had roots. The first thing he does when he is in a strange new place is to get to know the area by shaking hands with it, his bare hands (touch is very important to him).
It was when he was attending Art College in Lancaster that he discovered that working within the confines of the college walls was limiting his ability to create (it was almost a death to his work). He felt that there was much more energy outdoors. One thing he really loves is working with the tide, creating a piece of art and then watching to see whether or not the tide would take it away. I watched as he struggled to build a stone formation that would hold together, feeling his disappointment each time one would collapse, reminded of how fragile all things can be. When it was finally complete I found myself holding my breath as the tide came thinking, “Oh please don’t let the tide take it away.” He forms a very strong connection to all the places he works in. Creating and leaving behind these stone formations has almost become his calling card marking his journeys.
It’s funny how most of us are blind to the simply beauty in the world and how fragile that beauty is. If you don’t take the time to stop and embrace it, the tide could come and snatch it away before you have the chance.
Penpont, Scotland
Andy’s home base is in Penpont, Scotland where he has resided for 12 years with his wife and four children. Although not much else is said about his family, you can sense from the clip where he is having breakfast with them that they are committed to each other and that his wife supports him in his dream. Home is where Andy does his best work, probably because he not only loves the land, but because his heart (his family) is there as well.
Back in his college days, Andy started dabbling in photography because it was much easier to show a photograph than to explain how a project came to be. He photographs all of his work, which is lucky for us since it is absolutely breathtaking.
It was interesting to see that Andy’s love of the land also extended to the animals. He spoke of how the sheep affected the Scottish landscape and how the running of sheep was not unlike the flow of a river (unpredictable, ever changing). There was an absence in the landscape because of the sheep, and he felt that he was the next layer in what has happened to the land already. In tribute to them, he creates a river of white wool on the tops of the stone walls dividing the fields.
Storm King, New York
In Storm King, New York, he did a long term commitment working on a wall. His job was to redraw the line of the wall built by our ancestors. The wall had been originally built when the land was farmland, but now the trees find shelter in it. I liked the fact that you could easily follow the line of the wall even when it would stop and pick up on either side of a roadway or stream.
Digne, Southern France
Andy was commissioned by a museum to work on a wall made from raw clay dug fresh from the ground and mixed with human hair and water. He felt as though the people whose hair had been used in the mixture had now become bound by the wall (what a strange analogy).
The end of the film finds Andy is once again as his beloved river. Working with red ore stones he found under the larger rocks. Holding them, he could feel the energy radiating in them. The iron in the rocks is not unlike iron in our blood. The deep red color is an expression of the life that is in all things, including us. It is under the rocks, under the skin of the earth and under the skin of man. He thought about the solidity of stone as he ground the ore into a fine red powder after which he tossed it into the river giving the water the appearance of blood. Who is to say what stays and what doesn’t?
After the death of his brother’s wife, he worked with a tree. He felt as if that is where he needed to be at the time. Amid the roots of the tree was a large black hole. To him this black hole represented absence. He believes that what passes into the darkness will come back to life out of the black. That is very profound.

Andy Goldsworthy is a man who is amazed he is alive (and about life). Because of the way he lives his life, he is not frightened by death. He realizes that nothing is forever and makes the most out of every moment understanding how unpredictable and precious everything is. He is indeed an inspiration.