Andy Goldsworthy (British, born 1956), 'Wichita Arch,' 2004. Kansas limestone and Australian elm, 140 by 270 by 50 inches. Museum Commission

Andy Goldsworthy (British, born 1956)

Wichita Arch, 2004
Kansas limestone and Australian elm, 140 x 270 x 50 in.
Museum Commission

Carefully crafted of natural materials that are often gathered impromptu on site, the sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy are meditations on place and time. Simultaneously a part of the surrounding landscape and distinct from it, each work bears an inherent, subtle tension—between being in and out of place. As well, each sculpture maintains a tenuous relationship to time. Constructed of such materials as leaves, icicles, sand, and flower petals, they are destined to change or inevitably vanish. Even those works made of more durable substances slowly transform as they weather with the passing seasons.

Goldsworthy frequently constructs stone arches—in different locations, with different materials, and at different times. Describing the arch’s intrinsic appeal, he writes: "I experience the vigour and force of stone in the arches that I make, one side clasping the other . . . so that neither gives way."(1) He likes quoting the British author D. H. Lawrence’s description of the arches in Lincoln Cathedral: "Here the stone leapt up from the plain earth, leapt up in a manifold, clustered desire each time, up, away from the horizontal earth."(2) Clearly, for Goldsworthy the arch is a dynamic form, rich with metaphorical possibilities.

For Wichita Arch, the artist specified Kansas limestone and explained his interest in using this material in this particular place:

I love the idea of an arch of [lime]stone here because the stone is so hidden, there is no sense of it being here. But not only is it there, it used to be the sea. . . . So we are the furthest away from the sea you can possibly get in America, and there’s the presence of the sea.(3)

Although it is not native to Kansas, the elm tree Goldsworthy planted beneath the arch has connections to place as well: at the site in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, where limestone for the arch was quarried, a lone elm captured his attention. Coincidentally, elms were the first trees planted on the university campus, in 1896.(4) When first installed, the arch seemed to shield the young plant. But over time, the elm’s branches are spreading out, up, and around the arch, so the two elements of the sculpture are now entwined. Like all of Goldsworthy’s works, they celebrate the elemental beauty of the natural world and the inexorable passage of time.

--Emily Stamey, Ulrich Curator of modern and contemporary art

1. Andy Goldsworthy, Stone (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994), 95.
2. Ibid., quoting Lawrence’s novel The Rainbow (1915).
3. Goldsworthy quoted in Chris Shull, “World-Renowned Sculptor at WSU,” Wichita Eagle, October 29, 2004.
4. George M. Platt, Hugo Wall School of Urban and Public Affairs, to Ulrich Museum of Art staff, “Goldsworthy Sculpture Site,” Wichita State University interoffice memo, October 1, 2004, Ulrich Museum of Art object file.