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Artist Known for Ephemera Creates Slate Landscape

Artist Andy Goldsworthy is best known for working alone in nature, making fragile, temporary sculptures from leaves, rocks, even ice. The sculptor works quietly for hours in each place, a process captured in the 2001 documentary Rivers and Tides.

Photographs of Goldsworthy's work hang in galleries and museums around the world. His latest project is a permanent piece in the center of Washington, D.C., commissioned by the National Gallery of Art.

Goldsworthy mastered optics and engineering to create a series of domes constructed of slabs of slate designed to hold together permanently without the use of any cement.

The project, called "Roof," took Goldsworthy nine weeks of work to complete, spread out over a period of four months. The sculptured features nine domes rising from an area outside the Gallery's East Building. Each dome, topped by a black hole, measures 6 feet high and 28 feet across. The gallery, which was designed by IM Pei, features sharp vertical lines and light marble that contrast with the rounded forms of rough-hewn stacked slate.

Domes and black holes are themes Goldsworthy has repeated in his work for decades, whether executing them in leaves, sticks or stacked slate. They are forms that echo throughout the natural world, from the largest galaxies to the smallest cells.

"The underlying tension of a lot of my art is to try and look through the surface appearance of things," Goldsworthy says. "Inevitably, one way of getting beneath the surface is to introduce a hole, a window into what lies below."

Susan Stone followed the creation of Goldsworthy's new sculpture for the latest installment of our series on the intersection between science and art.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Susan Stone
Susan Stone is a contributing reporter/producer for NPR based in Berlin, Germany. Before relocating to Germany for a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship in 2005, she was a producer, editor, reporter and director at NPR’s headquarters in Washington for 10 years. Most recently, Stone was a producer and director for the weekend editions of NPR's award-winning news magazine All Things Considered, where she created a signature monthly music feature for the show.