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Earth Art Is Art Made In Nature With Nature

Earth art has many names, including Earthworks, land art and environmental art. It is a practice of creating art using natural materials or landscapes. Artists bring nature indoors to create sculptures or work outdoors creating something intertwined in the natural scenery. Either way, the key is to interact with nature in some form or fashion.

(Photo by Suzy Lyttle)

This movement stated in the 1960s and gained popularity throughout 1970s. It changed the way people thought about what art had to be, using new materials and spaces. Materials used in Earth art are often soils, rocks, vegetation and water. A lot of the times it is crafted in remote locations and then photographed to be shown in art exhibits.

One noteworthy Earth art sculptor and photographer is Andy Goldsworthy. He frequently works in a small scale with pieces made from ephemeral materials. Ephemeral means lasting for a short time. Examples of ephemeral Earth art are flowers laid in a ring or icicles arranged on rock. The flowers will eventually fade and be blown away, while the icicles will melt. Before they do, Goldsworthy documents his creation through photographs. He celebrates the short lifespan of his art, knowing decay is part of nature’s life cycle.

This video shows the kinds of short-lived art Goldsworthy creates. Plus, you can get tips on how you can make land art at home.

Tips on making Earth art

  • Look up examples of Earth art for inspiration or use your own imagination! There are no wrong ways to create and enjoy this activity.

  • Go outside! Find a safe place to create: your own yard, a neighborhood park or even in the city. Nature and art can be found anywhere.

  • Look for loose materials. Rocks, leaves, petals, twigs, water, snow, etc. The key is not to use materials being used by animals or still living. A flower that is growing has a job to do. It feeds insects and is hoping to be pollinated to grow again. Rather than taking a living flower see if you can find seeds on the ground or petals that have been blown off. Same with twigs. Instead of moving a log with animals living underneath, try a stick that hasn’t made an imprint on the ground yet.

  • Create your art. Arrange materials in a way that speaks to you! Spirals, patterns, lines, even a smiley face works.

  • Take a picture. The whole point of this type of art is that it won’t last forever. It will eventually be returned to nature. Keep photos and make your own art journal of all the great sculptures you’ve created.

Let’s create together!

Sometimes it is more fun to make a day out of an outdoor experience. Join a naturalist on an Earth Art Hike from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, January 23, at Plum Creek Nature Center. We will hike the Found Objects Sculpture Trail for inspiration and then find our own trail to create and leave our Earth art. Registration is required.

Keep in mind that we will be right next to Goodenow Grove’s legendary sled hill. If there is snow, pack your own sleds to enjoy a full day of outdoor fun.


Follow Willy's Wilderness on Facebook for more kid-friendly nature stories and activities.


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