Hiking in France 3: Goldsworthy Refuges d’Art

May 28, 2013

“There is this form I can’t stop making which is really snakelike, but I often think of it as a river.  It’s the idea of fluidity that is the connection, but I’m not really talking about  a river either.  It’s the movement that interests me.”
— Andy Goldsworthy, Wall

Andy Goldsworthy clay wall sculpture in the Vieil Esclangon Art Refuge

Andy Goldsworthy clay wall sculpture in the Vieil Esclangon Art Refuge

On Days 3, 4 and 5 of our hike, we saw five Goldsworthy works installed in Refuges d’Art, small buildings or shelters, where individuals are allowed to camp overnight.  Our hiking trails took us up and down mountains, across rivers and creeks, with some of the most spectacular scenery of my trip.

We returned to the wild valley of Vancon and hiked to the Church in the abandoned hamlet of Forest.  The ruins of the church were restored to house a Goldsworthy wall sculpture, another recessed elliptical space.  In contrast to the one at the Chapelle Saint Madeleine, this one was a light hole in a dark wall.

Goldsworthy installation in the Church of Forest

Goldsworthy installation in the Church of Forest

Old cruxifix over a grave outside the church

Old crucifix over a grave outside the church

Goldsworthy wall sculpture

Goldsworthy wall sculpture

Lunch break and nap in the hamlet of Forest

Lunch break and nap in the hamlet of Forest

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We hiked high in the mountains along an old “tax trail” to the abandoned village of Faissal.  We seemed to climb ever higher, with grand views of the distant Alps and curious mountain goats watching us from the summit of an adjacent mountain.  And then down, down again.

“Hill and valley followed valley and hill.” — Robert Louis Stevenson, from Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes

Hiking is much too absorbing to allow much thinking, I’ve found.  I moved through the day, step by step, always alert to where I was planting my feet.  I didn’t want to slip on a loose rock and fall or hurt myself.  I was very much in the moment, a satisfying feeling.

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Blue doors on ruin, the village of Faissal

Blue doors on ruin, the village of Faissal

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The refuge at Vieil Esclangon

The refuge at Vieil Esclangon

Goldsworthy river-like clay sculpture

Goldsworthy river-like clay sculpture

Goldsworthy sculpture with x-ray effect

Goldsworthy sculpture with x-ray effect

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The Refuge of Eschuichiere featured two rooms with wall art fashioned by Goldsworthy of rock with natural lines of contrasting color.

“Stretching out lines that already exist interests me more than imagining new ones.  I have made lines that explore and follow the contours of a rock, the edge of a river, the growth of a branch, the junction between house and street . . . The intention is not just to make a line, but to draw the change, movement, growth and decay that flow through a place.”
— Andy Goldsworthy, Wall

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At the end of Day 5, our guide Eric drove us in the van to the farm Belon, which was formerly owned by one of the leaders of the French Resistance in WWII.  In the basement we found several of Goldsworthy’s stone arches.  One of our hikers, Michele, mused about the significance of this “underground” space and its resonance with the “underground” resistance movement.

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I found the entire five-day hiking experience very rewarding.  Not only did I get to see some Goldsworthy art that I would never have been able to find on my own, I also enjoyed the company of some French natives on their home turf.  It made me realize how difficult it is for me when travelling to spend ordinary time with local people.  Typically I am staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, and going to tourist sites — with a bunch of other tourists.  With this guided hike, I had the unusual (for me) opportunity to keep company with some interesting French people, share home-cooked meals at farm tables with them, and even sleep in shared rooms in auberges and gites.  I found that they are great conversationalists (even though I could not understand or speak French, they made an effort to speak English from time to time, and I watched their lively conversations with interest), they were enthusiastic eaters and enjoyed leisurely meals together, they were well read, and they liked President Obama!

13 Responses to “Hiking in France 3: Goldsworthy Refuges d’Art”

  1. Chris Says:

    Ahh…I think I liked the last 4 words of your post the best!! 🙂

    • Rosemary Says:

      I had to go back and read the last four words. Yes, that was a nice thing to have as a common bond. They thought Obama had a big “cool” factor.

  2. Chris Says:

    I was reading about Andy Goldsworthy (Wikipedia) and they make no mention of any of these sculpures in France, which I found quite odd…or maybe I missed it. Even the Cairns that you photographed in the second post they had listed as being located in Australia, which I’m sure he has probably made them in more than one place!
    It is quite amazing work, nonetheless!! Again, thank-you for taking us along!

    • Rosemary Says:

      I have not met anyone in the U.S. who had heard of this hiking + art trail. Isn’t combining these two interests a wonderful idea? I will have to think about how to spread the word beyond my few blog readers!

  3. Brigitte Says:

    thank you for this very delicate diary, smells, sensations, images come to me from reading your blog and Rosemary is the strong sense of shared silence, laughter and chatter a great adventure around Goldsworthy but also a beautiful journey into the sublime landscapes

    • Rosemary Says:

      Brigitte, I cherish the connection we made on this hike. So good to hear from you again. I hope my photos brought to life good memories for you, too. Now we are settling back into our work and family lives. I wonder how your job interview went?

  4. Elisa Says:

    I’m rather sitting here with tears at having been able to get a glimpse of this. I soooo want to be able to smell it. What did it smell of? or like?


  5. I love Goldsworthy, what a magical hike! Wonderful.

  6. Chris Says:

    Yes, I thought it was very odd indeed that it wasn’t mentioned at all in the Wikipedia description…they even have a photo of the egg shaped, Cairn, exactly like the one you photographed but put it’s location in Australia!
    Maybe he wanted the trail to remain obsure, unknown, hmmm!

  7. Diana Studer Says:

    Rosemary you can edit Wikipedia. Add a link to your blog posts.

  8. Chris Says:

    Perfect idea!!


  9. […] Goldsworthy installations along the trail.  (You can read about that experience here and here and here.)  The $46 bus tour ticket to Storm King to see Goldsworthy’s walls was a much smaller […]


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