Some call it ‘Land Art’ or ‘ Art-trouvé’ I call it ‘Nature Art’ . It is a form of Conceptual Art created by using and manipulating found natural objects. I have not been a huge fan of much of the Conceptual Art I’ve seen, Christo’s islands surrounded by pink plastic left me cold and wondering how much fragile, light sensitive coral might have been destroyed by that installation.
I have been a long term fan of Andy Goldsworthy however, his Nature Art projects have fascinated me and it appears that he does take the environmental impact of his work seriously. With a few exceptions, most of his art is ephemeral – once constructed, it is allowed to disintegrate from natural forces; ice and snow sculptures melt, leaves and twigs rot, only his stone constructions will last beyond a season.
To an extent, I practiced a form of this as a child, I used to make ‘dolls’ from flowers and seeds threaded together with vine tendrils, twigs and pinned with thorns. A Mallow flower made a lovely veil or cascading hair when tacked to an oak gall or acorn and Fuchsia blossoms made elaborate ballgowns fit for a princess, all threaded onto a slender twig that formed arms and legs. These dolls lasted a few hours at the most before blossoms wilted and the entire plaything was abandoned to compost and return to nature. I also laid out elaborate ‘mosaics’ of seeds and acorns, often simply embedded in a grout of dirt where they would wash away with the next rain, sometimes I glued these mosaics to paper if the seeds were fine enough though I’ve no idea where these artworks are today if they even survived.
To this day, I still see art potential in some natural objects; I have a collection of turkey neck bones I have boiled down, stripped and allowed to weather a year outdoors to ‘bleach’ , to me they look like ancient skulls of mythological dragons with eye sockets, horned brows and an elongated snout and jaw (OK – I’m weird). I have made a stick puppet from one and save others to use as embellishments on some future tribal style quilt. I also save driftwood and interesting pebbles, the driftwood makes exquisite hangers for smaller natural themed wall hangings.
Other recent treasures include photos I took of beach rock cairns I found by the shore on a trip to Oceanside and the other day when I taught a private class to a quilt group, one of the creative ladies had taken up Tome Ishi, a Japanese art form of wrapping stones. In it’s original form, the stones were wrapped in rough hemp twine and placed on garden paths to indicate that pathway was ‘closed’. In the current artistic form – rattan, bamboo, twigs etc. are used to wrap the stones more decoratively. As the class was coming to an end, one of the participants brought out her collection of stones she’d wrapped and told me I could choose one as a ‘thank you’ gift. The stone I chose came all the way here from Alaska where she lives; they were all so beautiful, it was hard to choose.
I have also added a new board to my Pinterest page with images of the many exquisite examples I found online of Nature Art – check it out!