Stanford University is home to the gently undulating and seemingly playful Stone River at the Cantor Art Center. Andy Goldsworthy and a team of stone layers constructed this outdoor sculpture in 2001 from the sand stones left behind from damaged university buildings during the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes. They worked eleven hours a day, six days a week, for a total duration of three and half weeks to complete the sculpture on schedule.
In the mid 1970s, Goldsworthy escaped the confines of the safe and predictable workspaces of his art school in Lancashire by choosing to work outside in the open air every day. Nature is a primary character in his work – snow, wind, water, stone and plant growth – all are central. The inevitable march of time informs all of Goldsworthy’s work. His sculptures are made from components of the earth, soon to be returned to their original state, some within minutes, and others across long time periods. His icicle sculptures immediately return to water as soon as the morning sun melts them away. Stone River is set in a trough dug below ground level with the intention that the land over time will take it back to its natural state and animals will make homes in the site. As it is with all living beings, the ultimate decay of the stones travel full circle and return to the earth in their original state. Philosophically, Goldsworthy’s work considers these ephemeral qualities of life – change, growth, and decay. His work challenges us to find the transient nature in our own work, to push our selves to teeter off balance, and in that delicate moment, at the edge of collapse, to find new insights.