Influenced by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy’s documentary, Rivers and Tides, my colleague Alison and I decided to try our hand at constructing a sculpture/installation “from nature and in nature.” It was constructed on the idea that permeates Goldsworthy’s philosophy, “of giving it back to nature”, knowing that this structure would be at the whims and fancy of the rain, wind, sun, and other weather patterns that happened to tear through the high mountains of the Jamaican Blue Mountain peaks.
The seemly random placement of the branches, cut from the pink Poui trees located on her three-acre property, formed a sort of chaotic archway that only the fearless dared to enter. The branch ends stuck out in unexpected areas threatening harm to your eye or your body. But this was expected as we were learning how to use the materials and exploring the best way to place them. I wanted to cut them off but Alison reminded me that Goldsworthy, our inspiration, used materials in their natural form.
The larger branches were placed first, creating a foundation for the smaller ones to be added on top and in between. Adding the various layers of branches formed pockets of space that were later filled with the mindful weaving of the vines and the insertion of the Eucalyptus bark. Allison remarks that, “the details are moments or phrases of control in an otherwise disorderly or chaotic arrangement.”
The process of weaving with natural materials brought visual order to the ongoing building of the chaotic structure. By wrapping the vine sporadically around the branches they also strengthen the overall structure.
Understanding the materials was a new thing for me. I knew how to carve alabaster stone, mahogany wood and carve linoleum for printmaking, but experimenting with these natural materials created a different challenge. I discovered that the Eucalyptus bark, wet from the rains, would break apart as I weaved them through the cross section of the vines, the vines would break or the branches would move. This was frustrating to me! It had to do with control or no control!! Goldsworthy often mentions the importance of knowing your materials and how they operate. His experimental layering of stones on the sea side of Lancaster collapsed as he experimented with stacking different weights and sizes. Frustrated he started again learning their properties and discovering how the stones operated.
Even though the sculpture/installation is an ongoing project and my time in Jamaica had come to an end, I experienced being in nature and part of nature. I learned that the small sections of the woven vines and inserted Eucalyptus bark were important additions providing contrast of colors, lines, and unexpected movements though out the structure; contrasting details such as an architect would implement on a building or a sculptor would carve on the stone to ensure the surfaces formed continual planes of interest.
Andy Goldsworthy said,
“We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So, when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”