As it turns out, you don't need sleight of hand or even mud to design gravity-defying cairns. You do need a bit of patience, though, and a knack for "knowing the rocks," according to Michael Grab, an land artist who has been balancing rocks since 2008. He builds his sculptures with rocks from the natural landscape, usually alongside water.
Tasked by Australia’s Tourism Victoria Campaign to build a site-specific installation in southeastern Victoria’s Croajingolong National Park — a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve — Melbourne-based artist Corey Thomas spent five days looking for stories in the landscape. He found many — in the stones, seaweed, wood — each, as he says, with a new narrative. He ended up by the water, where tiny whorls of spinifex grasses gamboled between dunes and spindrift. Indigenous to Australia, the sand-stabilizing grasses disperse seeds in tufts that fragment as they travel, similar to tumbleweeds.
Arizona artist Kathy Klein gathers natural materials—cones, leaves, petals—and arranges them in situ. Bougainvillea in Los Angeles and Opuntia fruit in Sedona—her subjects are distinctly local, but her arrangements are designed to be universal. She's adapted the Hindu concept of a spiritual mandala (Sanskrit for 'circle') into a series of flora danmalas (Sanskrit for 'giver of garlands'). Her sense of composition is lyrical and her colorplay is alternately soft and dramatic.
"Sketching with flowers. Painting with clouds. Writing with water. Tracing the May wind, the path of a falling leaf. Awaiting a glacier. Bending the wind. Directing water and light. The May-green call of the cuckoo and the invisible trace of its flight."—Nils Udo, from his artist's statement.
German artist Cornelia Konrads creates site-specific installations that appear as though the universe is reassembling itself, and you are walking in on the process. Her work has been said to convey the illusion of weightlessness of objects falling into place.
In August 1612, ten people in idyllic Pendle Hill, Lancashire were found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to death by hanging. In August 2012, a public exhibit opened to commemorate these convictions, and others in England's centuries-long witch hunt. Winding through the rural landscape, Pendle Sculpture Trail features site-specific environmental art by four artists.