Issue by issue, deconstruct those musty stacks of National Geographic’s left in basements everywhere and you will find artists’ renderings of our ancestors, all of them hairy, stooped and eyes bright with potential. One illustration shows a troop of them on the edge of the rain forest about two million years ago. They are looking out over the savanna and its scattered Acacia trees, yellow grasses, enormous sky. Oh what to do their expressions say. The lead proto-us seems to be thinking Should I stay or should I go? If it would have been my ancestor, I think he would have said Go Now, Go.
At Storm King Art Center 500 acres of mostly open ground spread out between Catskill ridge lines; modern and post-modern sculptures rise up on open fields. Most left me cold but the yellow-gold spring light and the deep blue of the sky, the vistas, the sense of deeper space in the middle of those fields – those remembrances of the savanna must be imprinted on my gene bank. I move towards them. Given any choice, I will turn away from the forest and towards that light. This is why I love the West, all that land rolling on and on — a place where you can see what’s coming long before it arrives. In contrast, Storm King provides a miniature stage but one that will do.
One sculpture did strike a spark though, Andrew Goldsworthy’s Wall, built by five Brit stonemasons without mortar, each layer of granite balancing in harmony with the adjoining layer. I love its curves. They equal a kind of dance, a swinging movement, a reminiscence of a body rather than a cold abstraction. Its top is flat, its sides plumb. Thus, it is both consciously dressed for presentation and in its sinuousness is a match for the slope it rests upon, a reminder that in nature the shortest distance between two points is not the straightest line but often the more beautiful one. In its curves, it counsels us to have patience, to both walk slowly along its flanks and to pause and touch its edges and turnings.
This rock has more life to it than steel. The calculating hands and feeling eyes of masons balancing one piece after another – a remnant of that is strong. The colors are warmer. It holds the heat of the Sun, and living things gather to it – moss and snakes, mice and insects; a jumping spider sat motionless in a corner, his gray melding into the rock.
Build a small, one story house of stone. Place it near water. Scatter a few trees about. Set it so that horizon lines gather at the edges of your vision and so light might linger until the last possible moment. I could happily walk that dominion until the last call, and even then I would be murmuring Stay now, here.