Sculpture and the Natural World investigates human representations of nature from concrete landscapes such as mountains or rivers to more abstract phenomena like weather systems. Students will sharpen their observational skills while exploring its role in various academic subjects as a subject for study as well as discovering its powerful effects.
Environmental sculpture is a form of sculptural art that interacts with and changes its environment, such as that created by George Segal and Duane Hanson’s works. Environmental sculpture was popular during the 20th century and typically features non-figurative works that incorporate nature. Environmental sculpture can be displayed indoors or outdoors and may alter lighting levels in its immediate area; often pieces may allow people to enter or walk through them, as seen with George Segal and Duane Hanson works.
Artists often use different materials – including mud and stone – to create an immersive experience for viewers of this art genre, such as mud. Additionally, this form focuses on integrating nature with manmade objects to show how we coexist with nature and vice versa. Artworks like these help raise awareness about environmental issues like climate change and deforestation and can inspire viewers to care more about protecting our environment.
Landscape architecture is a branch of landscape art, employing natural elements to craft an inviting space where people can walk, play and relax. A combination of techniques and styles resulted in creating something beautiful yet meaningful to viewers – sculptures can take the shape of trees, ponds, rocks or buildings or any object; their composition often features wood, grass or stones for an authentic appearance.
Louise Nevelson’s wood and metal panels with abstract shapes are iconic environmental sculptures. Her pieces are intended to fit seamlessly into their environments, including being moved by wind if weather allows it. Her use of different colors also enables light playfulness over her pieces, giving them a fluid look.
Environmental sculpture stands apart from other forms of artistic expression by being designed to interact and coordinate with its environment. It places greater emphasis on public interaction as well as different aspects of its surrounding such as decorative effects, spatial feelings, national characteristics and decorative effects that contribute to national character. Environmental sculpture represents a new direction in sculptural art’s evolution that strives for higher artistic levels with more profound cultural connotations.
Land Art or Earth Art first surfaced near the end of the 1960s as a movement to turn landscapes into art forms. Although not tied to any particular manifesto, its central ideology emphasized rejecting commercialism in art. Many works required earth-moving equipment while invasive installations often took over site-specific spots – all intended to demonstrate that even when altered by humans, nature itself speaks its own truths.
Minimalism and Arte Povera were major influences, which highlighted everyday materials as forms of expression. Artists favored works that featured transience; that is, they existed for only a brief time before disintegration or disappearance; unlike traditional sculptures which could be found on museum shelves for public exhibition, most of these works existed far outside reach of many art goers; photography was frequently used to document these artworks; however this added a commercial aspect back into them that their creators intended to avoid.
Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty became an icon of Land art during its creation at Utah’s Great Salt Lake, made out of basalt, colored salt crystals and mud sourced directly from this location. Alice Aycock also worked in this genre with tunnels, wells and mazes cut into landscapes that offered both breathtaking and terrifying exploration experiences for viewers; Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels used Utah desert sunlight to provide luminescent viewing experiences for viewers.
Modernism had a considerable influence on this movement of art, yet it remained flexible enough to continue evolving over time. Andy Goldsworthy is a British artist renowned for creating site-specific environmental works which demonstrate the transience of nature through organic materials like rocks, branches and leaves combined with photographic documentation that show their various stages of growth, maturity and decomposition in his works.
Others artists, like Cuban Ana Mendieta, used themselves to blend in with their surroundings. She would pose in front of trees, bushes and bodies of water before photographing their outlines to emphasize our connection with nature.
Earth art, also known as Land Art or Earthworks, emerged in the 1960s and 70s. This avant-garde form of sculpture centers on nature and how people interact with it; using materials such as rocks, mud, leaves, twigs and branches from specific external landscapes as construction material to form artworks which eventually disintegrate over time – reflecting life’s cycle as well as our inherent connection to natural environments.
The development of Earth art movement stemmed from various influences. Minimalism’s rise during the mid-to-late 1960s saw simplicity reign supreme in art, while growing frustration with gallery spaces led to attempts at operating outside them. Furthermore, a counterculture movement promoted nontraditional forms of expression that sought to challenge established conventions and bring about change.
Earth art movement participants used nature as their canvas, often altering existing landscapes through earthmoving equipment or non-invasive means to make significant alterations that left lasting impressions on existing landforms. Robert Smithson created numerous site-specific earthworks which celebrated damaged landscapes.
The Earth art movement pioneered site specificity within art history. Constructed within landscape settings, its works often were not accessible to visitors – placing artists at the forefront of their own work, as often only they knew that these pieces existed. Furthermore, due to their ephemeral nature it made these works difficult to display in galleries.
Notable earth artists include Dennis Oppenheim, Nancy Holt, Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer. Many of these men and women began their careers as painters before transitioning into sculpture – using nature as a metaphor for human evolution and time cycles.
As artists experiment with art conventions and take advantage of spaces, the lines between sculpture and installation art continue to blur. Alexander Calder used ambient air currents to move intricately balanced pieces, while Jean Tinguely created motorized works made up of scrap materials with an industrial aesthetic.
Sculpture has always been about space. Reliefs in classical architecture illustrate how much their placement determines a sculpture’s impact in a given environment. Even after medieval art pieces became mobile — such as Michelangelo’s David — their impact was still determined by where they stood in relation to each other.
Environmental sculpture is usually designed with its surroundings in mind from its inception, often planned and created accordingly. American sculptor Beth Galston notes this practice when speaking of environmental artists’ relationship between work and site planning as an integral component of their process and final result – which is shaped by both factors making it hard to replicate elsewhere.
Some environmental sculpture is interactive and draws the viewer into its space, such as George Tsutakawa’s fountain that uses flowing water to generate a soft rushing noise that heightens its presence while attributing meaning from natural phenomena. Other three-dimensional works also utilize sound to capture viewer attention or extend meaning.
Environmental sculptures may also serve as memorials or commemorations to mark an individual, event, or civilization’s prosperity and power for future generations to remember. Such monuments often incorporate materials that withstand outdoor weather such as bronze and stone; monuments are powerful forms of art because they establish its existence within collective memories of future generations.
At SEC PLAZA sculpture, we plan to host a series of 14 months-long activations events that provide various ways for visitors to respond and interact with it. These include discussions between artist and commentators on contemporary art; ecology experts from OSU; as well as artist.