'Wichita Arch' Is A Living Work Of Art

Jan 22, 2014

Credit Fletcher Powell / KMUW

Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor who travels all over the world to create site-specific sculptures.

He only works with his hands – no man-made tools – and only with natural materials taken directly from the landscape. He creates hauntingly beautiful works with leaves, mud, sticks, stones, ice, snow and whatever else nature provides.

Goldsworthy is a master of these ever-present materials. But there is a less obvious, but no less masterful use of another component – time.

His art is an ephemeral construction. Sometimes it passes quickly, like when he took red river rocks, ground to a fine powder, and released it over a waterfall.

Other instances, it is a slow passing of time, like Wichita Arch, found on the edge of the WSU campus.

Wichita Arch was erected in 2004. The 22-foot-wide, 14-foot-high arch is constructed from thick, rough cuts of Flint Hills limestone. There is no mortar or cement used. Only the weight of the keystone holds this arch in place.

Underneath, he planted a young sapling. This living component means that Goldsworthy’s piece changes from season to season. And as long as the tree grows, this sculpture will never have a final form. It is a living part of the landscape.

But as the sapling grows inevitably closer that keystone, the uncertainty of their eventual meeting tugs at the imagination. Will the tree destroy the heavy, limestone arch? Or will it mold itself around the arch to create a strange, harmonious entity?

Only time can tell.