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Family Friday: Creating Andy Goldsworthy-inspired land art builds resilience and insight

September 25, 2020: If you’ve seen my other posts this week, the theme is Andy Goldsworthy. I can’t name all the ways he’s influenced me as an artist, photographer, therapist, and human. His art and process have value for us at any age. Taking your kids or teens out to make their own land art is a great hands-on way to get their brains and bodies connected to their outer and inner environments.

Andy uses materials that nature provides. Leaves, mud, rocks, sticks, flowers, water, ice, snow, dirt, vines. He also relies on natural tools: hands, teeth, feet, thorns, gravity. Some things are both the subject and the tool, such as using mud, snow, or water as adhesives, or rocks as hammers or abrasives.

Take your child out for a walk around the neighborhood, backyard, or nature area. Collect natural items that are interesting, and find a place to create your art. Use the collection and creation processes as a time to check in with your child. Ask them questions about the experience. How does that (leaf, rock, mud, etc.) feel, smell, look, sound? How does this thing interact with this other thing? How did you decide to pick up one thing and leave another behind? Being curious in your child’s process allows them to understand and verbalize their experience. If your child is very young or less verbal, you can narrate your observations by saying things like “This one feels heavy.” or “This leaf has too many spots, I like the ones without so many spots on them.” or “When the rocks scratch each other, they turn white.”

Creating your own land art can also teach your child about temporariness, persistence, problem-solving, planning, and resourcefulness. All of these contribute to greater emotional regulation and self-understanding. Help your child name and explore their emotions, thoughts, and reactions without judgement. Talk about differences and similarities in how you and they experience the project. Not only are you building skills and developing curiosity, you’re connecting on emotional and sensory levels.

What kind of art is waiting for you out there? Explore, create, and share your experience.

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