Born July 25, 1956, in Cheshire, England; son of Fredrick Alan (a professor) and Muriel (Stanger) Goldsworthy; married Judith Elizabeth Gregson; children: James, Holly, Anna, Thomas. Education: Attended Bradford College of Art, 1974–75, and Preston Polytechnic, 1975–78.
Addresses: Agent —Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art Ltd., 21 Cork St., London W1X 1HB, England. Home —Penpont, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.
Worked as a farm laborer in northwest England, and as a groundskeeper at an estate in Cumbria; created first work on Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, England, mid-1970s. Major projects include: "Touching North," North Pole, 1989; "Herd of Arches," Dumfriesshire, Scotland, 1994; "The Storm King Wall," Storm King Arts Center, Mountainville, NY, 1997; "Sheepfolds," northern English counties, late 1990s; "Ice Snake," Nova Scotia, Canada, 1999; "Midsummer Snowballs," London, England, 2000; "Garden of Stones," Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, NY, 2003. Solo exhibitions include: Coracle Press Gallery, London, England, 1985; Anne Berthoud Gallery, London, 1989; Hand to Earth—Sculpture 1976–90 , Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds, England, 1990, and tour stops in Edinburgh, Scotland, Gouda, Netherlands, and Toulouse, France; With Nature , Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, 1991; Hard Earth , Turske Hue-Williams Gallery, London, 1992, and tour stops in Australia, New Zealand, and Japan; Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 1994; San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, 1995; Musee d' Art Contemporain, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1998; Time , Barbican Centre, London, 2000; Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX, 2004; Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI, 2006.
Andy Goldsworthy carves, melts, or otherwise shapes various natural elements into impressive, often temporary works of art around the globe in what is known as "land art." The British visionary uses only snow, stone, wood, water, mud, flower petals, or even his own saliva to construct his works, which have ranged from frozen arches at the North Pole to a seven-foot-long chain of red poppy petals. "That his touch extends from the most delicate to the most massive materials confirms his position as one of the leading sculptors of our time," declared Kenneth Baker in an article on Goldsworthy's art for Town & Country .
Goldsworthy is of Scottish parentage, but was born in 1956 in Cheshire, a county in northwest England. His father was a professor of mathematics at the University of Leeds, and it was in the Leeds area that Goldsworthy had his first encounters with the landscape as a farm worker in his teens. It was this early experience that spurred his fascination with the earth and its riches, he told Anna Murphy in an interview for London's Observer . "Farming itself is a sculptural process," he said. "Fields are ploughed, bales of hay are stacked, walls are built. The day is spent shaping and re-creating what is around you."
In 1974, Goldsworthy entered Bradford College of Art, and continued his studies in art at Preston Polytechnic, which later became the University of Central Lancashire. During his three years there, he chafed at the requisite indoor studio solitude that was expected of him as a visual-arts major, and longed to be outdoors instead. A turning point came when he attended a presentation by Richard Long, Britain's foremost practitioner of "land art." The term is commonly used to denote site-specific installations that shape earth, wood, water, or other natural elements into works of art. The images of Long's work inspired Goldsworthy to head to the coastline of Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, where he assembled his first work of natural art using the stones along the shore.
Goldsworthy spent some years working as groundskeeper for an estate in Cumbria, a part of northern England that borders Scotland in the west of the British Isles. After he left school in 1978, he continued to build his outdoor sculptures, which were impermanent by nature, seen by few, and largely ignored by the mainstream arts community. After moving to Scotland in 1985, Goldsworthy gained a measure of renown with a project at the North Pole titled "Touching North," which consisted of four immense snow arches. He built a similar, but more permanent series of arches near his home in Dumfriesshire in 1994, which he titled "Herd of Arches." These were made from the pinkish-brown sandstone of a nearby quarry that had provided building materials for the city of Glasgow in the nineteenth century.
Goldsworthy's first significant project in the United States came in 1997 with "The Storm King Wall" at a celebrated sculpture park at the Storm King Arts Center in Mountainville, New York. In this part of the Hudson Valley, distinct stone walls had been commonplace since the first wave of European settlers to the region, but these structures had fallen into disrepair in modern times and were often overtaken by forests. Here Goldsworthy constructed a 2,000-plus-foot wall using the natural rocks from the region that paid homage to the past. It was a drystone wall, meaning it was built without mortar in the traditional, centuries-old method. "The wall," noted Doris Lockhart Saatchi in London's Independent on Sunday , "rises from an ancient, ruined rock boundary that inspired it, winds its way through stands of maple and oak trees, appears to dive beneath the surface of a pond, reappears at an angle on the far bank then bends sharply away before marching straight up a hill to the edge of a highway. From east to west its pace seems to quicken, allowing an analogy of Old World to New and past to present."
In the north of England in the mid-1990s, Goldsworthy received a government stipend to create "Sheep-folds," a series of drystone enclosures across the countryside that replicated the ancient enclosures that were once used to confine vast herds of sheep when England was the center of the wool trade. The project was a painstaking one, both in red tape and in the actual building of the walls, but Goldsworthy often convinced communities to grant him permission by pledging to hire local farmers—among the few who still knew how to construct the drywalls—for the job.
Goldsworthy rarely accepts commissions, but did execute one for the addition to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City in 2003. On a second-story rooftop, he created the "Garden of Stones" memorial, which featured orbs of granite hollowed out and then turned into planters for dwarf chestnut-oak saplings. These were ceremonially planted by Holocaust survivors, and Goldsworthy explained to Baker in the Town & Country article that "the trees growing out of stone are an expression of a person's ability to survive under the most difficult circumstances."
Because much of Goldsworthy's work is either geographically inaccessible, impermanent, or often both—such as "Ice Snake" in Nova Scotia, a majestic wiggle that stretched down a river briefly in 1999 before melting under the sun's heat—he makes photographs of projects available to collectors and connoisseurs. A filmmaker, Thomas Riedelscheimer, captured Goldsworthy working on "Ice Snake" and other installations in a 2001 documentary, Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy, Working with Time .
Goldsworthy also views his works as a mission to remind humankind of its far more impermanent nature, in comparison to the shifting landscape. "The fact that someone has walked in a place where I work, has lived in it and died in it, gives what I do its context, its depth," he told Baker in another article, this one for the Smithsonian . "The fact is that we live our lives on top of other people's. That's why I don't like work that claims a place. That's not the intention."
Coracle Press Gallery, London, England, 1985.
Anne Berthoud Gallery, London, 1989.
Hand to Earth—Sculpture 1976–90 , Leeds City Art Gallery, Leeds, England, 1990.
With Nature , Galerie Lelong, New York, NY, 1991.
Hard Earth , Turske Hue-Williams Gallery, London, 1992.
Hard Earth , San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, 1995.
Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA 1994.
Musee d' Art Contemporain, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 1998.
Time , Barbican Centre, London, 2000.
Austin Museum of Art, Austin, TX, 2004.
Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, Grand Rapids, MI, 2006.
Independent on Sunday (London, England), May 14, 2000, p. 32.
New Yorker , September 22, 2003, p. 126.
New York Times , July 21, 2002.
Observer (London, England), December 1, 1996, p. 16.
Smithsonian , February 1997, p. 94; November 2005, p. 46.
Town & Country , March 2004, p. 107.
Village Voice , January 1, 2003.