Andy Goldsworthy Sculpture, Stone River, Enters Stanford University's Outdoor Art Collection
Stanford, CA, Sept. 4, 2001—In late August, British artist Andy Goldsworthy (born 1956) completed Stone River, a 320-foot sculpture on the campus of Stanford University. Constructed of sandstone from university buildings destroyed in the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, Stone River is the largest work of outdoor art at the university. In addition to Goldsworthy, a team of eight professional dry-stone wallers from England and Scotland worked 11 hours a day, six days a week, for three and a half weeks (1848 hours) to complete the sculpture on schedule.
Stone River is a wall-like serpentine sculpture set in about three acres of land to the northeast of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts. It is about 3 1/2 feet high and about 4 feet wide at its base. It is made of more than 6,500 stones, including about 700 triangular coping stones weighing between 20 and 50 pounds each that top the sculpture. Each coping stone was individually shaped at a different angle to fit the wall precisely. The total weight of the piece is about 128 tons.
Goldsworthy first visited Stanford over a year ago to choose the site and consider the project. It was his vision to employ stone that had a relationship to the university. He commented: "I strive to make connections between what we call nature and what we call man-made. I hope that the sculpture will reside somewhere between a building and a quarry. It will bring together the stone's geological and social nature. Many of my stone sculptures incorporate previously worked stone. I like the relationship to the past life of a material—of one hand placed upon another."
Set in a trough in the earth, the sculpture gives the appearance of an archaeological excavation. Over time, the land around the work will return to its natural state and animals will settle into the site. The stone has traveled full circle: quarried initially for Stanford University buildings, it now returns to the earth in another form.
Goldsworthy has explored the serpentine shape in different media for over a decade. About the configuration he noted: "I describe the form as a river and prefer it not to be referred to as a snake. It is not a river either, but in calling it one I hope to touch on the movement associated with a river. A river to me is not bound to water. It is the flow, not the water, that is important—a river of wind, animals, birds, insects, people, seasons, climate, stone, earth, color. . . And yet when I see a snake I am fascinated by its form and movement. . . It is the essence of line, movement, and form. The effortless way in which [it] travels, reveals an acute feeling and understanding of [its] surroundings. The perfect sculpture. Perhaps I do not make snakes in the same way that Brancusi didn't make birds or fish."
The sculpture is a gift to Stanford University from the Robert and Ruth Halperin Foundation in honor of the presidency of Gerhard Casper (1992-2000). The Halperins are long-time supporters of the university and the Cantor Arts Center, and are also collectors of Goldsworthy's works.
Thomas K. Seligman, the Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center, stated: "Stone River is one of the most important gifts to the Cantor Arts Center's collection. Andy Goldsworthy has created a sublime and beautiful sculpture that will intrigue viewers as it raises questions about the purpose and place of art and about humankind's relationship to the past and the land. The graceful undulations and richly hand-worked stones evoke and interact with the environment in an elegant and engaging way. We are very grateful to Andy, his team of wallers from England and Scotland, and the Halperins for this extraordinary work of art for Stanford."
For more then two decades, Goldsworthy has created works of art from natural materials such as leaves, grass, branches, snow, ice, and stone The works made from these natural materials interact in different ways with the environments from which they were made. As Goldsworthy notes, "Movement, change, light, growth, and decay are the life-blood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work." To Goldsworthy, nothing is certain but change, "My sculpture can last for days or a few seconds—what is important to me is the experience of making. I leave all my work outside and often return to watch it decay." The artist was particularly pleased with Stone River and the changing appearance of the work as the sun shifts overhead during the course of the day.
Stone River joins some two dozen other outdoor works in addition to the B. Gerald Cantor Rodin Sculpture Garden at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. Cantor Arts Center docents lead visitors on an Outdoor Sculpture Walk on the Stanford campus the first Sunday of each month, at 2 p.m. The tour, which is free, takes an hour and a half, and is offered rain or shine. The tour begins at the Main Quad entrance where The Oval meets Serra Street, not at the Cantor Arts Center.
Andy Goldsworthy, Stone River, 2001. Sandstone. Given in honor of Gerhard Casper, President, Stanford University, 1992-2000, by the Robert and Ruth Halperin Foundation