Leaning Into the Wind

Andy Goldsworthy’s wild nature

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Plenty of us climb through hedges, but Andy Goldsworthy does it the hard way, from one end to the other. In one scene in Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy,  a new documentary by Thomas Riedelsheimer, there’s what the British might politely call a bustle in a hedgerow along a busy urban street, and suddenly the artist emerges from the foliage, gray-haired and blinking, having crawled along the block through leaf and branch.

No one seems to take notice. They probably realize it’s just Andy Goldsworthy.

Over the course of a 40-year career, Goldsworthy has become celebrated around the world for the evanescent artworks he creates out of stone and water, leaf and ice. Some last until the day warms up and are memorialized only in photographs. Others, like the low stone wall that serpentines through the trees, under a river, and up a slope at Storm King in New York state, will be around long enough to baffle the aliens after we’re gone.

Back in 2001, Riedelsheimer, a German filmmaker with an interest in the arts, brought Goldsworthy to filmgoers’ attention with Rivers and Tides, in which the British-born sculptor waxed thoughtful on his philosophies of life and spent long minutes creating his works, icicle by icicle, branch by branch, only to watch them be swept away.

It’s a lovely film and it stands on its own, so why have another go 16 years later? Because artists change, age, and go through distinct periods, and because Goldsworthy, at 61, appears to be going through a period in which he seems to want to physically merge with his art.

Thus the hedge climbing, a bit of performance art so buried in nature the camera sometimes can’t even capture it. Riedelsheimer does film another tree-walk, along a skeletal line of branches in the countryside, Goldsworthy picking his way along their tops in horizontal silhouette. And one of the artist’s long-established gambits—in which he lies down at the start of a light rain and reveals, upon getting up, a perfect human negative in dry pavement or gravel—seems to have become a late-life obsession.

Utilizing an angular soundtrack from British avant-rocker Fred Frith (with an assist from the deaf Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie, herself the subject of a wonderful Riedelsheimer film, 2004’s Touch the Sound), Leaning Into the Wind hopscotches around the globe, visiting commissioned projects in Gabon, New Hampshire, the South of France, and San Francisco. The film loops continually back to Goldsworthy’s home base in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and, in particular, to a narrow river way surrounded by a copse of trees.

The site is his fountain of youth, and he repairs there to make art—aligning bright yellow elm leaves around cracks in fallen trees until they resemble found lightning bolts—and to disappear into the landscape. “Huge dramas occur in here,” he says.

There’s a lot of Goldsworthy talking in the film, in dreamily earthy abstractions that occasionally part to reveal a knottier man than he lets on. A passing reference to a past divorce and a past death is balanced by the appearance of the artist’s daughter Holly, seen in childhood videos and in her current 20s, her father’s assistant in the field and (although the movie doesn’t mention it) an artist in her own right. She’s his literal handmaiden, helping him coat his hands with red poppy leaves until they resemble bloody gloves and then letting a waterfall wash them away in seconds.

As with the simpler and stronger Rivers and Tides, there are moments where you may want to stop the film to assure yourself you’re seeing what you’re seeing, so disordering to the senses are Goldsworthy’s re-orderings of nature. A stone wall in New Hampshire is split perfectly down the middle—a wall for keeping people in rather than out. A bucket of feed set atop a white tarp in a country field results in an almost perfect Zen circle, created not by man but by sheep. A sunspot on a cabin floor becomes a sculpture in light with the addition of a handful of dust.

By the final scenes, Goldsworthy is pushing himself against a gale-force wind on a rocky slope, waving his arms and trying to sculpt the air itself. Or is the air sculpting him? The film leaves the artist hanging and the matter up to us.

More Film...
Juliet, Naked
A rom-com that rocks

Romantic comedies—good romantic comedies—used to be such a fixture in the Hollywood firmament that when a pretty good one comes along now, it’s likely to be overpraised. Juliet, Naked, directed by Jesse Peretz and adapted from the 2009 Nick Hornby novel, will never be mistaken for a…

more »
Crazy Rich Asians
More than a movie

Before it whisks you off on the sunniest, most extravagant Singaporean holiday imaginable, Crazy Rich Asians begins on a curiously dark and stormy night.

When Eleanor Young (a mesmerizing Michelle Yeoh) arrives dripping wet at an exclusive London hotel, the snob at the front desk declines…

more »
Some fo’ real, fo’ real sh*t

Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is a tonal roller coaster, and therein lies much of its unique power. It’s alternatingly comic, heroic, tragic, horrifying, ridiculous, dead serious, clear-eyed and confused; it shifts into moments of documentary and even essay film, but it’s also one of…

more »
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Summer Book Sale Final Day

10:00am|Lummi Island Library

Rainbow Reads

4:00pm|Ferndale Library

Artist Demo

4:30pm|Bellingham Public Library

Last Gasp of Summer Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Books on Tap

7:00pm|North Fork Brewery

Comedy Open Mic


Fancy Bingo

8:00pm|Boundary Bay Brewery

CW Survey 1
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Young Artists Club

3:00pm|Ferndale Library

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Kombucha Class

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Arete Quartet with Will Bernard

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

CW Survey2 CW Survey 1
Eat Local Month

10:00am|Whatcom County

Vendovi Tours

10:00am|Vendovi Island

Boating Center Open

10:00am|Community Boating Center

Bard on the Beach

12:00pm|Vanier Park

Bringing Memoir Alive

5:00pm|Village Books

Art Uncorked!

5:00pm|Windows on the Bay

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Pub Run

6:00pm|BBay Running

Healthy Meal Planning

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Zambia Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Cruisin' the Fossils Coastline with Ray Troll

7:00pm|Village Books

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Sh*tty Ted Talks

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Wind in the Willows

7:30pm|Claire vg Thomas Theatre

La Cage Aux Folles

7:30pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

see our complete calendar »

CW Survey2 Village Books 2018 Cascadia Kids Blue Brothers Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Trove Web CW Survey 1