Why you should explore Andy Goldsworthy’s Wood line

Andy Goldsworthy – Wood Line, 2011, eucalyptus branches, 365 meter (1,200 foot), Presidio, San Francisco
Andy Goldsworthy – Wood Line, 2011, eucalyptus branches, 365 meter (1,200 foot), Presidio, San Francisco, photo: CC BY 2.0  by David McSpadden

Who is Andy Goldsworthy?

Andy Goldsworthy is a widely known artist famous for creating intricate and elaborate sculptures with his bare hands. He draws his inspirations and motivations to work from a specific location. If he likes the site, he creates art using natural materials he finds around the place, including icicles, stones, mud, flower petals, leaves, twigs, snow, flower petals, and more.

Goldsworthy strives “to make connections between what we call nature and what we call man-made.” Goldsworthy usually captures his projects in videos and photographs because of their temporary nature.

Wood Line

One of his famous works is the Wood Line, which is simply a snaky strip of eucalyptus trunks and branches stretching through the woods. The artists described the project as something that “draws the place.” Like most of Goldsworthy’s works, Wood Line was created to decay over time, and soon everything will vanish.

Talking about the project, Andy Goldsworthy said:

It may not last, but it’s one of my more permanent installations.

Andy Goldsworthy – Wood Line, 2011, eucalyptus branches, 365 meter (1,200 foot), Presidio, San Francisco
Andy Goldsworthy – Wood Line, 2011, eucalyptus branches, 365 meter (1,200 foot), Presidio, San Francisco, photo: CC BY 2.0 by PunkToad
Location

Goldsworthy found adequate materials for his Wood Line project at the Presidio Park, a National Park in San Francisco. The area is filled with arrays of trees planted by soldiers during their stay in the area. Many of those trees are dying off, providing enough fodder for the artist’s sculpture.

Wood Line strip begins at a ridge below the highway of West Pacific Avenue and runs down the hill in lengths of about 1,200 feet. It makes astounding s-turns between Presidio Boulevard and the Lover’s Lane, one of the oldest paths in Presidio.

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History

Wood Line began in 2010 and was completed a year later. It follows another grand project by the artist in the same park, Spire. In Spire, he used dead cypress trees to create a soaring triangle tree trunk. Visitors can enjoy both works by Goldsworthy in the same park adjacent to one another.

Although both works are close, Wood Line offers obvious dissimilarity with Spire. It is not hard to grasp both the differences and the deep connection between the two. Spire invites viewers to look up. With Wood Line, the artist wants people to contemplate the origin of the trees, where the life of a tree begins, which is the fertile earth.

Presidio is the only place on earth where you can see two separate works of Goldsworthy at once. If you stand on the path on top of Wood Line, you will be able to see Spire on the west. Goldsworthy takes pride in two of his greatest works being close to one another. He said:

I do enjoy that sort of dialogue over space between two works.

Andy Goldsworthy – Wood Line, 2011, eucalyptus branches, 365 meter (1,200 foot), Presidio, San Francisco Andy Goldsworthy – Wood Line, 2011, eucalyptus branches, 365 meter (1,200 foot), Presidio, San Francisco, photo: CC BY 2.0  by David McSpadden

Inspiration

It didn’t take Goldsworthy long to get the idea of Wood Line as he was working on the Spire project. Seeing trucks dump eucalyptus during reforestation inspired him.

I saw huge areas of cut trees that were just taken away, and I thought, ‘Oh… wait. The things I could do with that.’

Before even completing the Spire project, Goldsworthy was already planning the Wood Line concept. He approached the Members of the Presidio Trust, whom they recommended the location.

But the artist was having second thoughts about his new idea. He said:

I didn’t know whether I could make the work. Sure, I can join logs together, but am I going to get a line that is going to move through the site? The whole purpose is a line that moves through the place. The form has to rise out of the logs and be greater than the individual components of the logs.

As time went by, the initial questions that lingered through his mind have been answered. He immersed himself into the environment and let it absorb him so that he can see everything with clear eyes. Goldsworthy saw the living things, the bones in the form of the dead trees on the ground, together with the workers and gawkers who visited the place to watch them assemble the “Wood Line” as one.

Goldsworthy said:

The site has overtaken the idea of the work, and the work is now very firmly that site.

The role of the visitor

As people and nature destroy his creation, Goldsworthy is not bothered,

This is not a manufactured material I’m working with. People will walk on it and the line, over time, will start to decay. As it decays, it will become more subtle and disappear into the ground.

Video: Andy Goldsworthy discusses Wood Line

4 min 26 sec
How it was created

Just because the project used woods, and the same project stays in the woods doesn’t mean that any wood would be suitable. Goldsworthy walks through the forest looking for perfect woods for his artwork and spent long hours isolating keepers from rejects. Goldsworthy spent a great deal of time inspecting the logs, using his immediate and instinctive reaction. If he liked the way it appears, the logs got screwed together, and if he didn’t, his team returned them to the woodpile.

I am aiming for a perfection that I will never achieve, the important thing is to aim for that, and it needs all my concentration.

During the construction of Wood Line, Goldsworthy worked with a crew equipped with saws. The artist would “hunt for the logs,” When he found a perfect one, the team outlined the pattern on the path. Eight men would lift the logs and sew and scrape the bark.

It took Goldsworthy up to two days to plot just a single curve. After that, his crew would disassemble it and put them on a truck and to the “Wood Line” to be reassembled. This process took a full day, and the following day, the artist would take a day off to clear his mind.

When he was not working on the project, Goldsworthy would go out with his family, sometimes watch a Giants-Dodgers game or check out the Alcatraz. After unwinding, he goes back to his project with a fresh mind and eyes to spot perfect logs for the “Wood Line.”

Not harming nature

As a nature lover, it wasn’t easy for Goldsworthy to work on Wood Line, even the Spire nearby. The entire operations required extra vigilante because a lot was at stake. The installation required a delicate touch, as it is directly underneath a section of a historic federal forest. The logs were moved and placed with a great deal of care so that they don’t disturb the members of the ecosystem around the path.

It is worth noting that Andy Goldsworthy is a naturalist, and he did not cut down any trees for his projects in the area. The wood was obtained from projects across Presidio that required removals of trees, such as Doyle Drive reconstruction, habitat restoration, and environmental remediation.

The press release from the Trust on the park reads:

The historic Presidio forest is the park’s most dramatic natural feature and is the most vivid example of how people shaped the park’s landscape… ”Wood Line’ is not as ephemeral as some of Goldsworthy’s other works, but the sculpture is not conceived as a permanent addition to the Presidio landscape. Like many of the artist’s site-specific works, the materials will decompose and return to the earth over time.

What is next?

After completing Wood Line, Andy Goldsworthy was not done yet. He has installed another two sculptures at the same location.

I do like going back to the same places, time and time again. I think I can get more from that than from going to different places. I’m standing here on the line of reject logs that are actually, in my mind, opening up the possibility for another work.

Now, Wood Line is one of four projects by Goldsworthy in Presidio, an urban national park spanning over 1,000 acres. The park is slowly becoming a hotspot for nature artists courtesy of the FOR-SITE Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that focuses on “art about the place.”

If you are hooked up on Goldsworthy’s work and want to marvel at his creations, it is easy to explore Wood Line and Spire in a day through a three-mile hiking loop. His four works are the Wood Line (2011), Spire (2008), Tree Fall (2013), and Earth Wall (2014).

More by Andy Goldsworthy

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