World-renowned artist Andy Goldsworthy, OBE, has been creating sculptures from natural materials in natural conditions for more than three decades. Using only what he finds in nature—his “collaborator”—he sculpts artworks from earth, stones, leaves, flowers, icicles, pinecones, snow, twigs, or thorns, meticulously and intricately arranged, delicately placed and balanced, often incorporating the evanescent qualities of sunlight and shadow, and, intrinsically, the elemental forces that will effect their decay and disarrangement—wind, sun, ocean or river or rain, and, most of all, time. We perceive a deeper spirituality in these works, beyond their beauty and craft and labor. We are lucky that Goldsworthy documents these artworks in his photographs, works of art in themselves. The beautiful new showcase, Andy Goldsworthy: Ephemeral Works: 2004—2014 (Abrams, $85), features more than two hundred full-color plates of works from the recent decade. Arranged in chronological sequence, the exhibit yields a sense of time unfolding and receding as one turns the pages. This is a worthy addition to any Goldsworthy collection, or to any art book collection, indeed.
Rich in historical context and featuring an extensive cast of players, this important biography, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America (Knopf, $32.50), captures in vivid detail the variously dramatic, tense, ugly, and noble behavior surrounding the five days of Marshall’s Senate confirmation hearings in that pivotal summer of 1967—which culminated in the appointment of the first African American Supreme Court Justice. From his beginnings as “a legendary country lawyer” in dangerous rural southern backwaters (“Atticus Finch before there was an Atticus Finch”), Marshall rose to the national stage as a brilliant scholar of constitutional law in Brown v. Board of Education and eventually to the Mount Olympus of American jurisprudence. Wil Haygood, who wrote The Washington Post article that become the basis for his book and then for the award-winning film, The Butler: A Witness to History, and is also the biographer of subjects including Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Sammy Davis Jr., and others, has crafted this story with a finely honed sense of the interplay of history and individual lives that serves his illustrious subject well.
Long-distance swimming has never enjoyed the cultural cachet of the more lucrative or national-identity-building sports like soccer and baseball, but through the heroism and tenacity—and deeply attuned teamwork—that defines her sport, the now-legendary world champion athlete Diana Nyad has found her way, after four decades and countless painful wounds from ocean salt, skin chafing, sunburn, and jellyfish stings (a more consistent threat than shark bites) into the cultural awareness and worldwide admiration that she has so richly earned. Not that fame was ever her motive: far from it. As Nyad states in her new memoir, “The opportunity to inspire is a privilege.” Although Find a Way (Knopf, $26.95) will surely become a classic in sports literature—its stunning full-color plates documenting the stages of her historic 2013 swim from Havana to Key West at age 63 are as affecting as the prose—it is also a moving testament to the finest qualities of the human spirit.