Happy Isles in Yosemite was the site of a massive rock slide in 1996. Today you can see the remains of the rockfall in boulders, broken trees, and disrupted landscape. One trunk, still standing but broken and hollowed, reminded me of “Spire”, Andy Goldsworthy’s artwork in San Francisco’s Presidio.
Spire is a carefully constructed tapered column of cypress logs, held together in such a way as to look entirely natural and effortless. The column rises 90 feet above the floor of the Presidio, near an aptly chosen location, Inspiration Point. It is an art work typical of Andy Goldsworthy.
Goldsworthy, a British artist who oversaw this project in 2008, is known for creating works of natural materials, in natural settings, and subject to the changes that occur in the outdoors. His creations fit into their settings, yet surprise us with their unusual order or patterns. The artist’s hand is invisible but implied. So, for example, Goldsworthy’s Wood Line (2011), also in the Presidio, is a series of Eucalyptus trunks arranged in a curved line through the Eucalyptus forest. The Eucalypus trunks are expected; the orderly curves are not.
Conceiving of Spire and constructing Spire, Goldsworthy faced challenges. The logs were chosen from an inventory of fallen trees left from the culling of the forest. Their trunks were massive, weighing as much as 17,000 lbs. each. Their trunks were not always straight, and had to be bent to fit the tapering vision. The construction had to be strong but unseen, managed with cranes and cherry pickers.
This “Spire” takes its place among San Francisco’s other spires. The church spire of Saint Ignatius, and the Transamerica Pyramid once dominated the landscape, but now disappear among other skyscrapers. Likewise, “Spire” dominates its setting today, but in time will disappear among the younger and replanted trees.