On April 30, 2009, San Jose State University MFA and MA students from Anthony Raynsford’s Contemporary Art Seminar on Empathy and Embodiment took a field trip to the Cantor Arts Center to view the collection and to hear a Stanford Art Department lecture by art historian and critic Michael Fried in Annenberg Auditorium. Presley Martin presents his impressions of earth artist Richard Long’s 1990 piece, Georgia Granite Circle, included in the exhibition Pop To Present on view at the Cantor Center until August 16th.
Reflections on Georgia Granite Circle
By Presley Martin

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Richard Long, Georgia Granite Circle, 1990
Photo by Presley Martin

Walking quickly through the Cantor Arts Center, I couldn’t help but be struck by Richard Long’s “Georgia Granite Circle.” While there were many works that were interesting and warranted further attention there was no

doubt that I would spend my fifteen minutes with the circle of granite. Having grown up in a scientific family and spending summers in the New Hampshire woods that are strewn with granite boulders I recognized the rocks as granite immediately. Indeed when I sat with the work many childhood memories came flooding back to me. More than anything I could imagine how it would feel to walk across the mass of rocks. I would have to struggle to keep my balance walking on top of the granite chunks as they moved under my feet. As a child I was also an avid rock collector so I was drawn to the many small glinting crystals in the granite. These are good specimens, the kind I would have taken home as a child. Indeed it occurred to me that Richard Long’s main emphasis with this work may be nothing more than a celebration of the childhood joy of rocks. It also made me remember throwing stones into lakes and rivers, where one goal was always to throw the largest stone you could. While all these reactions to the work engaged me and drew me in I wouldn’t say I lost myself in the work, or was embodied in the granite. I definitely empathized with Richard’s and indeed all humans love of rocks.

I found that after sitting with the work for several more minutes I began to imagine myself shrunk down so the granite pieces were like mountain peaks. Standing on top of one of the mountains I could look out at the vast expanse of jagged granite peaks, like I was in the middle of some great mountain range. My sense of scale then shifted so the granite pieces were like large boulders that were several times my size. This reminded me of badlands landscapes that I really love. I could imagine hiking amongst and climbing on the boulders. I really did begin to lose myself in the work, and I became embodied in the granite.

Kenneth Baker the art critic for the San Francisco Chronicle called the work “defiantly uncommunicative”, and perhaps he is right, but maybe it’s the lack of overt message on Long’s part that does make it relatively easy to lose oneself in the work.

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