Nature and Environmental Book Reviews

Short List of Best Nature and Environmental Books



Nature and Environmental Book Review:
A Collaboration with Nature

Book Review by David Yarian, Ph.D.

A Collaboration with NatureA Collaboration with Nature
Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy is a British artist/sculptor who works in the open air using materials he has found around him to create his works. These sculptural pieces are often ephemeral, made of leaves or icicles or twigs and piles of stones – and may vanish within minutes or days. Their only continuing existence is in the photographs made of the work.

Goldsworthy has the playful air of a child in a sandbox, creatively stitching together marvelous structures of his natural materials. Often strikingly at odds with the landscape on which they are placed, at the same time his sculptures reflect their ecology since they are made  only of materials gathered from the site of the installation.

A Collaboration With Nature is a beautiful coffee-table sized book with large-format photographs of Goldsworthy’s work. The pieces vary from small-scale works made of leaves, grass and thorns to larger works built of poles, logs or stones. The settings are all over the world: from the green meadows of Yorkshire to the North Pole; from a beach in Japan to the desert of the American Southwest.

Of necessity a factor in his work is the weather on the day of the sculptural construction. One striking sequence in the book shows a Stonehenge-like snow sculpture built on a hilltop in Blencathra, Cumbria on 12 February 1988. Four successive photographs, taken only minutes apart, show how different the work appears under the changing light conditions: high clouds, diffused light; misty conditions backlit by bright sunlight in the valley beyond; overcast and dark with just a hint of sun behind looming clouds; and dark/misty with bright backlit hills beyond.

The photograph of each sculpture is accompanied by a note describing the location, date of construction, and the prevailing weather conditions. The weather description for this sculpture is “stormy, strong wind, weather and light rapidly changing.” The photos bear this out.

Goldsworthy’s art is featured on Saving the because it is founded upon an exquisite ecological sensitivity, recognizing the beauty of natural spaces and natural materials, and working within the framework of natural forces. These sculptures celebrate the forces of nature, revealing them through subtle emphasis while pushing the limits of the possible.

Icicles and plates of pond ice are fused together into starbursts and arches; snow becomes a structural building material for “stonehenges”, giant hollow snowballs, and mysterious 2001-like monoliths marching across an empty, snow-swept plain. Shales are piled into looming cairns that grow larger and rounder as they reach for the sky, risking collapse from gusts of wind or the incoming tide on the beach where they are constructed.

Stalk lattices are constructed in pools of shallow water; the structure above the water is mirrored on the water’s still surface, creating an image that is rounded and complete, with no way to tell what is structure and what is reflection.

Another series of four photographs, taken at different times and in different locations, reveals the ghostly shape of Goldsworthy’s body on the surface of the ground. These images were formed as he lay on the ground with arms and legs outstretched as rain or snow fell, covering the ground around him. The ephemeral image of his shape is the portion of the ground shielded by his body from the precipitation.

Goldsworthy plays with natural light and the colors of nature in his work. Snow constructions are sculpted so different intensities of light glow through the hollowed blocks. Iris leaves are plaited together with different thicknesses and hung from a tree branch so yellow-green light glows from the center of the darker surround.

Bright red maple leaves are stitched together with thorns to form long snakes that meander with the current down boulder-strewn mountain streams. Different pieces showcase yellow leaves; red stones ground into powder; a halo of fall leaves spanning the spectrum of color from bright yellow to deep maroon; or a fairy’s circle of yellow dandelion flowers pinned with thorns above a field of bluebells.

This lovely book is a celebration of the natural world. Goldsworthy’s art shows us for a singular moment in time - in a particular place - something about light and color, and the forces of gravity, weather, tide and wind. Each piece is uniquely oriented to its setting. Then, in a few moments or a few days, the work disappears, melting back into the landscape from which the materials to construct it were drawn.

Goldsworthy describes his process: “For me, looking, touching, material, place and form are all inseparable from the resulting work. It is difficult to say where one stops and another begins. Place is found by walking, direction determined by weather and season. I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches.”

The film Rivers and Tides documents Goldsworthy at work. It is a fascinating look at this intense man and his loving, persistent, curiosity-driven interaction with the materials and forces of nature to produce that which we call Art, but which, sooner or later, returns back to the Earth from whence it emerged.

Rivers & TidesRivers & Tides (DVD)
Thomas Riedelsheimer, director

This documentary focuses on artist Andy Goldsworthy, a sculptor whose medium is nature itself and whose preferred studio is the outdoors, particularly where water forever flows, rises, and/or retreats. The soft-spoken artist is seen hard at work making ephemeral sculptures out of bits of ice in the trees, or building tall, mysterious cones from loose rock, which stand like spiritual sentinels in forests and on shorelines, overgrown by plants or swallowed daily by high tides. A mesmerizing, poetic and contemplative portrait of this renowned sculptor. 2004, New Video Group

Other Books by and about Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy’s work has been constructed and exhibited worldwide and showcased in a number of wonderful books that make his unique art accessible to us all. They are briefly described below.

Andy Goldsworthy and David Craig

Artist Andy Goldsworthy and writer David Craig trace an ancient drover's route from the sheep pastures of Thornhill, Scotland, to the old market town of Kirkby Lonsdale, England. Goldsworthy, whose natural sculptures are often made up of collections of carefully arranged rocks, has created a self-supporting arch that is assembled with about 30 stones and no mortar. As he and Craig travel the British countryside, they set up and photograph the red sandstone arch in a wide variety of locations. Looking at the different sites where the arch stood and reading Craig's insight into the geography and history of the land provides a unique opportunity for readers to experience Goldsworthy's work and England's natural history in one sitting. 1999, Harry N. Abrams

Andy Goldsworthy

Since 1995, Andy Goldsworthy has created a series of artworks in Northwest England in sheepfolds: stone enclosures found across the countryside that have been used for assembling, sheltering, and washing sheep for hundreds of years. After working on and off for more than a decade, he completed thirty-five folds, often rebuilding them in the process; many of them can now once again serve their intended purpose. These form the core of Enclosure: they reflect Goldsworthy’s lifelong interest in the land, its history, and the people who work on it. 2007, Harry N. Abrams

Hand to EarthHand to Earth
Andy Goldsworthy

Now available in paperback, this retrospective book covering the work of Andy Goldsworthy from 1976 to 1990 remains one of the most comprehensive publications on the acclaimed artist. With nearly 200 illustrations featuring early examples of his ephemeral works made of leaves, stalks, sand, and snow, Hand to Earth offers fascinating insights into the ways in which Goldsworthy creates his unique and highly personal artworks. 2004, Harry N. Abrams

Midsummer SnowballsMidsummer Snowballs
Andy Goldsworthy

Famous for transforming the natural world into the canvas for his surprising and colorful work, Goldsworthy expands upon his fascination with snowballs in the urban melting action documented here. On the night of June 21, 2000, Goldsworthy, with many helpers, placed 13 huge snowballs throughout the city of London. For the next six days he watched and recorded as each ball (weighing about a ton) was sculpted by the city environment, people's touch, and temperature. As the snowballs succumbed to the wind and the warm summer air, they slowly revealed the objects packed within them: barbed wire, feathers, stones, branches, wool, and more. The resulting shifts in shape, color, and texture comment gently, and with humor, on the transience of time, the beauty of change, and the steady force of nature. 2001, Harry N. Abrams

Andy Goldsworthy

Sculptor Goldsworthy is an artist who works with nature in nature. He creates astonishingly subtle, emphemeral, seemingly impossible, and elegantly mysterious works out of stone, sticks, leaves, stalks, ice, and sand, constructions vulnerable to sun, wind, storms, tides, and time. Magical and exquisite, Goldsworthy's sculptures move us to look more carefully at the world around us and consider more deeply our place within the fine mesh of life. 2004, Harry N. Abrams

Andy Goldsworthy

Goldsworthy’s sculptural works in stone are collected in this volume, with introduction and descriptions of the work by the artist. 1994, Harry N. Abrams


Andy Goldsworthy

The Earth is Goldsworthy's medium, and he works quiet, fleeting miracles as he creates exquisitely delicate and temporal sculptures out of leaves, twigs, ice, petals, feathers, sand, water, and stone. Left open to the forces of time and change, each piece succumbs to the inevitable process of dissolution, an integral aspect of Goldsworthy's lyrically sacrificial art, and he captures these transformations in elegant photographs. In diary entries that chart his experiences working in Scotland Canada, New Mexico, Japan, and Holland, he writes eloquently about the why and how of his magical work, articulates his fascination with change and decay, and describes the challenges of working in such volatile settings as beaches and woods in winter. By reversing Western art's tradition of creating works that will last long after the artist has gone, Goldsworthy celebrates beauty's transitory nature and willingly embraces the full cycle of life and death. 2008, Harry N. Abrams

Andy Goldsworthy

British artist Andy Goldsworthy has now built a 2,278-foot stone wall at Storm King Art Center, a sculpture park on the Hudson River in Mountainville, New York. This sensitive and detailed response to the land - former farmland in an area once rich in stone walls - is one of his most impressive and important permanent artworks. This new work starts by closely following the foundations of an old, dilapidated wall and then makes a series of increasingly voluptuous arabesques before plunging down into a lake. It rises again on the other side and heads straight up a grassy slope to stop dead at a major highway. The book's stunning color photographs show the wall from every vantage point and in all four seasons, as well as documenting ephemeral work made around it. 2011, Harry N. Abrams

Andy Goldsworthy

Goldsworthy’s sculptural works in wood are collected in this richly illustrated volume, with comments by the artist. 1996, Harry N. Abrams


Andy GoldsworthyAndy Goldsworthy: Touching Nature: Special Edition
William Malpas

Famed sculptor Andy Goldsworthy makes "Earth art" out of, among other materials, stacks of rocks, or stalks tied together, or mud thrown into rivers or poppy petals wrapped around boulders. His art is a sensitive, intuitive response to nature, light, time, growth, the seasons and the Earth. 2007, Crescent Moon Publishing

The Art of Andy GoldsworthyThe Art of Andy Goldsworthy: Complete Works
William Malpas

This is the most comprehensive, up-to-date, well-researched and in-depth account of Goldsworthy's art available anywhere, and includes a new introduction, new bibliography and many new illustrations. Malpas surveys all of Goldsworthy's art, and analyzes his relation with other earth/ land artists such as Robert Smithson, Walter de Maria, Richard Long and David Nash, and his place in the contemporary British art scene. 2007, Crescent Moon Publishing

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