To me, Goldsworthy's "Cracked Rock" pieces were not found in nature as they
were photographed, but changed to create the designs he documented.
Using tools of fire and ice are an interesting alternative to "man-made"
tools, but are tools, nevertheless, that the artist has used to change
the appearance of the natural stone. They are forces directed to the
alteration of the existing object(s). Goldsworthy acts on natural
objects and reforms them into his own aesthetic vision. This is what I was
referring to as "manipulative."
Verame, on the other hand changed the appearance of the rock but
did not alter its natural formation. He did not cut into the stones and
rearrange their parts.
Both approaches are alterations of the natural environment; and in
that sense, perhaps all artist working with environmental themes are
As for "environmental" or "eco-art", I would say that Verame's work
pre-dated our current interpretation of the classification but can
easily find a niche within it. Was Cristos concerned about what happened to the environment or the
animals attracted to eating the bright colored nylon, when his
Grand Canyon piece was torn away by the wind?
That we're even thinking about whether the blue has cobalt in it
and whether there is toxic residue is probably an outcome of artists
like Verame and others who have created a greater awareness of the
possibility of moving paint from canvas to the landscape, calling
attention to the environment and our relationship to it.
The "environmental movement" itself as a political and social action
campaign by environmental activists actually predated most artists
working in this genre and set the foundation for the awareness,
knowledge, and actions artists are taking to call attention to the
"deep ecological" issues facing the planet and many of the questions
raised by the participants of the listserve. Using the environment to call attention to and use of natural forms in the
'80's set the foundation for deeper ecological interpretations today.
You could put the roots of the environmental movement itself in
context to an roots in the disarmament movement of the early 70's
and '80's. But we don't have any art that we call 'disarmament art"/ "disart" or "peace
art/peacenikart." It doesn't mean it didn't exist; we just don't have
a label for it. Why, then, do we need some kind of all encompassing
label within which to place all artists working with landscape/
I find such classifications an overused part of the left-hemisphere to name
what is or isn't in the world. It is perhaps the same as calling
everything "post-modern" that doesn't have any other classification
because somehow we feel the need to "name" what it is.
It may be like arguing over the meaning of mincing and dicing or that
beautiful phrase a journalist used to describe the Faulkland's war as "two bald men
arguing over a hairbrush."
Thanks for your question and the opportunity for the verbal volly.
Teresa--Thanks for reminding me about Jean Verame's blue rocks (he also has
an unfinished one in Texas). Lita Albuquerque also did a blue pigment in
the desert piece for the Cairo Bienniale or some such exhibit. I would
question whether either of these could be called "environmental" and really
not "eco-art" because of the question of what happens to the
color/paint/pigment (blue often contains cobalt, a toxic substance) left in
the environment. I don't quite understand your reference to Goldsworthy
being more manipulative of the landscape since he nearly always limits
himself to materials found in the landscape and rarely uses tools, never
adds foreign materials. Most of the "cracked rock" pieces I have seen were
broken with fire and ice rather than tools. And he leaves the materials to
stay in the ecological cycle for the most part, taking away only the photo.
But I enjoy debates about the definition of the terms we have right now;
environmental art is obviously very loose. What do you think?