Editor’s Note: Andy Goldsworthy returns to the Museum Tuesday, December 12, on the occasion of the publication of Andy Goldsworthy: Projects. More information is available here.
The most startling aspect of Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones is its beauty. Located on the second floor of a museum dedicated to teaching about the atrocities of the Holocaust, the picturesque garden is an outlier. The scattered boulders form a sandy pathway that weaves through a thick overhang of tree leaves. Through the gaps in the foliage you can make out the choppy waters of the Hudson River.
Goldsworthy reminds us of the beauty that exists in the world, even after a genocide. Out of holes bored into the tops of these rocks grow young dwarf oaks that will reach up to 12 feet over a period of decades. A closer look shows that the trees’ trunks have molded to the stone, making it seem as if the two objects are one and the same. This minor detail was essential for Goldsworthy’s mission. In 2003, when the Garden of Stones was first opened to the public, he noted, “Amidst the mass of stone the trees will appear as fragile, vulnerable flickers of life – an expression of hope for the future. The stones are not mere containers. The partnership between tree and stone will be stronger for having grown from the stone.”
The sandy path ends at a balcony that overlooks the Hudson. Passing the last rock I came to an unobstructed view of tourists milling around the river-side paths, water taxis carrying passengers from Manhattan to New Jersey, and Ellis Island resting on the horizon. In this moment it becomes clear that Goldsworthy wants me to end his exhibit with a spectacular spectacle of human life. Each pathway, boat, and towering skyscraper holds humans living out their lives. In the distance I could imagine hundreds of thousands of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island, all with hopes of happiness in a new land. A bounty of life is displayed before me, while the building at my back reminds me how much life has been taken. The tragedy of the Holocaust is obvious; the beauty of life’s persistence despite so much sadness is a lesson often untaught. Andy Goldsworthy teaches us to celebrate as well as mourn.
Benjamin Shapiro is a PR intern with the Museum.