Whimsical, Curvacious, Fractured
California's Artful Surprises Beckon
By Mike Pierry Jr. | Special to the Bristol Herald | June 10, 2008*** This story appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier on May 25, 2008. ***
California, well-known for its natural beauty ? beaches, deserts, mountains and tall trees ? can also serve up creative, man-made surprises. To illustrate, during our last trip to the Golden State, we found several examples of memorable outdoor art in the San Francisco area.
We planned a re-visit to the beautiful campus of Stanford University in Palo Alto to once again enjoy seeing the familiar bronze sculptures by the French master, Auguste Rodin, including his "Doors of Hell" that are placed outside the art museum building. But we specifically sought out "Stone River" by Andy Goldsworthy having become aware of Goldsworthy's work after viewing one of his DVDs at home.
"Stone River," a long, serpentine, hand-placed configuration of salvaged building stone, is not immediately visible from the campus roadways. It lies beneath trees in a natural-looking dry ravine which invites a walk down into and alongside the sculpture.
The stones come from a demolished former university building that had been damaged by earthquakes. They were placed by hand, without mortar, in a seemingly casual yet obviously careful manner. The setting is quiet, thoughtful and satisfying.
FRACTURE LINE LEAVES AN IMPRINT
Later, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, we find ourselves entering the magnifi cent new deYoung Fine Arts Museum. We are walking on limestone paving blocks past several large, rough-quarried boulders which serve as seating benches. It becomes apparent that there has possibly been an unfortunate construction failure. A long, distinct crack runs erratically across the paving stone and up through the boulders. A failure, however, was not what had happened.
What we were observing was a deliberate fracture line that is the commissioned work "Drawn Stone" by the artist we now have even more admiration for, Goldsworthy. Both the stone and the artist are native of Yorkshire, England, and here combined, without doubt, they have made the definitive statement about the upheavals that are possible in San Francisco and the bay area.
The entryway to the striking, perforated-copper sheathed museum carries a steady fl ow of visitors. Some miss noticing "Drawn Stone." That oversight will be to their regret.
James Turrell's "Three Gems" is located in the Osher Sculpture Garden of the museum. Taking the form of a stupa, it is a concrete and red plaster cylindrical structure that is domed with a circular opening in its roof. When sitting around the circumference inside, the circle of sky above becomes the experience. The color and light of the sky, of course, changes during daylight and fades to starlit at night. Entry to this diminutive Pantheon is via a tunnel and arched doorway. LED lighting is an additional element.
The deYoung Museum is quite comprehensive in scope; ask about the ocular building so as to not overlook seeing it.
NORTH TO SONOMA
Leaving the urban landscape, we cross the Golden Gate Bridge, impressive as it always is, and head north to Sonoma.
A short while after turning on to S.R. 121, we become aware of an anomaly of an intense-blue knobby tree rising up into the equally blue California sky. Welcome to Cornerstone Place! It would be hard not to stop and find out more about this "Festival of Gardens" plus shops, tastingrooms, caf? and market.
The Blue Tree, created by Canadian artist, Claude Cormier, gave new life to a dying tree slated for removal. It is covered with thousands of sky-blue plastic Christmas balls and is the keynote to dozens of other individual artists' gardens ? some funky, some eco-friendly, some thought-provoking ? that warrant a leisurely stroll around the grounds.
And, although the efforts of the many landscape artists are eye-popping, colorful and dramatic, the serene, timeless natural background of grape vineyards and golden hills of the Sonoma countryside is always a conscious part of this unusual outdoor art exhibit.
California, natural or human-created, beckons.
MIKE PIERRY JR. is a freelance photographer and an avid traveler.
ON THE NET:
Stanford University: www.stanford.edu/home/visitors
deYoung Art Museum: www.famsf.org
Cornerstone Place: www.cornerstoneplace.net
"Stone River" by Andy Goldsworthy is created from salvaged building stone.The outdoor sculpture can be found at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif.
"Drawn Stone," also by Goldsworthy, shows a deliberate fracture line illustrating the upheavals which are possible in the San Francisco area.
Visitors to the new deYoung Fine Arts Museum near the Golden Gate Park may view the area from an unusual observation tower.
James Turrell's "Three Gems" is located in the Osher Sculpture Garden of the museum.