Friday, May 8, 2009

Andy Goldsworthy's Spire

Yesterday I hiked the Presidio's Ecology Trail and decided to stop and see Andy Goldsworthy's newest Bay Area sculpture, "Spire". I first learned about Goldsworthy when I was teaching summer school in Visitation Valley several years ago; in the last week the other teachers and I did a three day hiking and camping trip with the students in the Marin Headlands. One of the instructors at the Headlands Institute spent an afternoon teaching us about Goldsworthy and his techniques, and then had the students work with eucalyptus leaves, rocks, and goldenrod blossoms to create their own ephemeral pieces of art. 

The following year I worked as a student docent at my university's art center; we each were allowed to create our own tours organized around a particular theme, and I incorporated Goldsworthy's sculpture "Stone River" into mine.  Goldsworthy created this installation out of detritus from the university buildings that collapsed during the 1906 earthquake, and over the last several years, as he intended, the earth has started to reclaim "Stone River" in the form of grass and small weeds. 

With regard to this latest sculpture, I actually read about "Spire" back in New York; the Times wrote a great article about Goldsworthy and the project last October, and the Presidio Officers' Club had a wonderful exhibit (which unfortunately just closed) depicting the process of creating the sculpture, as well as the inspiration behind it. Fittingly, "Spire" stands on a rise above Inspiration Point, in an area that's currently being reforested by the Park Service. The hundreds of acres of trees in the Presidio were mostly planted by the U.S. Army in the 1880s, when the land was still a military base, and in areas where large swathes have died--for various reasons--the Park Service is now planting new ones. As a result, tiny pine seedlings surround "Spire", which stands over them like a massive arboreal babysitter. 

"Spire" itself consists of many cypress tree trunks, and up close its height and breadth are really striking. The view from its base includes Angel Island and Alcatraz, the Oakland Hills and Berkeley, and broad stretches of sparkling blue Bay water.  As I continued on my hike down towards the Main Post, I would occasionally look southwest and see "Spire" reaching sharply and almost ominously towards the sky. 

Spring in San Francisco has arrived in full force--throughout the course of my hike I saw monarch butterflies and Anna's hummingbirds, bush lupine and deerweed in full bloom, Indian paintbrush and Blue Toadflax lining the hillsides, sandpipers and Western Grebes along the Crissy Field marsh. No coyotes however, although lots of signs have popped up warning of their presence, and no hawks either. Maybe next time.

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