“An artist is an ordinary person who can take ordinary things and make them special.”
— Ruth Asawa

One of Ruth Asawa's wire sculptures, de Young Museum

One of Ruth Asawa’s wire sculptures, de Young Museum

Serendipity struck again in my discovery of Ruth Asawa and her sculptures of crocheted wire.  As I was doing my trip planning for California, I read about Asawa for the first time at Improvised Life in a post about the New York Times supplement about remarkable people who died in 2013.  That very same day, when I mentioned my upcoming trip to one of my library patrons, she said I should be sure to check out the Ruth Asawa sculptures at the base of the de Young Museum tower.  Once again it felt like this museum visit was meant to be.

Ruth Asawa was the daughter of truck farmers, and I love how some of her thoughts about making art are seeped in farming metaphors.  She said:

“When you put a seed in the ground, it doesn’t stop growing after eight hours.  It keeps on going every minute that it’s in the earth.  We, too, need to keep growing every moment of every day that we are on this earth. . .”

“Sculpture is like farming.  If you just keep at it, you can get quite a lot done.”

At the de Young Museum, Asawa’s sculptures are suspended from the ceiling.  The light casts interesting shadows on the walls, creating an ethereal dance between the art and its silhouette on the walls.






Andy Goldsworthy's Wood Line

Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood Line

I have become something of an Andy Goldsworthy groupie.  (If you’re a returning reader, you know I’ve written before about the Goldsworthy installations I saw in New York and in France.)  When I was planning our trip to California, I did a google search to see whether Goldsworthy has any art in the Bay area — and I learned that he has five pieces including a new one in San Francisco’s Presidio presented in October 2013.  That was all the information I needed to set out on a pilgrimage to view his sculptures in their natural settings.

Goldsworthy has three installations in the Presidio.  Spire, a 95-foot steeple-like sculpture constructed from 37 large Monterey cypress trunks, was his first and was built in 2008.  The Presidio Trust brochure, “Goldsworthy in the Presidio,” says that this artwork “references the architecture of nearby trees but also buildings visible from the site, including the Transamerica Pyramid and church spires.  The sculpture is fated to fade into the forest as young cypress trees planted at its base ultimately grow to obscure the piece — like the old forest welcoming the new.”

Andy Goldsworthy's Spire

Andy Goldsworthy’s Spire

The Spire towers over the Monterey cypress trees nearby

The Spire towers over the Monterey cypress trees nearby

Monterey cypress, long leggy trees

Monterey cypress, long leggy trees

Goldsworthy’s second Presidio installation (2011) is called Wood Line.  It is a curvy, snake-like sculpture made from eucalyptus branches and lies on the sloping ground.  The towering eucalyptus trees surrounding Wood Line form a vaulted space like a natural cathedral.  This landscape art will deteriorate over time, and the transformative aspect is part of the essence of the piece.  I loved the checkered, dappled pattern of the light and shadows on the Wood Line in winter.




Eucalyptus bark

Eucalyptus bark

On the ground

On the ground

And looking up

And looking up

Goldsworthy’s newest installation is Tree Fall.  It is housed in the tiny historic powder magazine building, so it reminded me of some of his pieces in the refuges along the Goldsworthy hiking trail in France.  The Presidio Trust describes this piece as follows:  “While Spire articulates the space into which trees grow and Wood Line investigates the relationship of a tree to earth, Tree Fall explores what occurs beneath the ground.”  This artwork is comprised of a section of tree that seemingly grows out from a clay-covered ceiling.  There is a sense of being underground like a tree root.



The next Goldsworthy installation we saw was in the entry courtyard of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park.  It is called Drawn Stone, and it is a meandering fissure in the paving stones and stone benches.  It seemed to represent a fault line, appropriate to the earthquake-prone city.  My husband and I walked right past it, oblivious to its presence until it was pointed out to us by the staff.


The fifth Andy Goldsworthy installation in the Bay Area is on the Stanford campus.  It is called Stone River, and is another of those serpentine sculptures that so captivate the artist.  This sculpture is a wall of stone, curving like a snake, and situated in a depression in the earth.  The stones were shaped from the debris of university buildings damaged in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes.