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Friday Slide Show: Goldsworthy's Spire Survives Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

27 May 2022

It's been nearly two years since Goldworthy's Spire sculpture in the Presidio was damaged by fire. The Presidio repaired the sculpture, adding a cable fence, new signage and wood benches made by its Forestry crew.

We'd been by a few times but recently, parked by the overlook across the way, we thought we should return to take new photos of it. Yesterday that's what we did.

It was an overcast day, which made the charred sculpture a bit easier to photograph. Instead hard sunlight, we had a soft, diffused light that made the darker tones more readable without blowing out the highlights.

As we had in 2014, we walked around the tree to see how the light fell on it from every angle. As we did, it occurred to us that we should do the slide show in black-and-white. There would be just enough tonality to distinguish the sky from white.

But even in color, the gray sky and charred trunks made a monochrome statement that the minimal color only reinforced. So we let the sculpture speak for itself.

The cable fence, necessitated by the vandalism that would have burned the sculpture to the ground, is unfortunate but not unsightly. Unlike the zoo, it doesn't keep the exhibit from hurting people but discourages people from hurting the exhibit.

You can see it in the Park Service video shot from a drone:

There's no path around the fence but we walked around anyway. How could you not?

We noticed gaps between the tree trunks that form the sculpture, gaps we had never seen before. The fire had whittled the trunks down a bit. A few of the gaps had metal supports inserted into them to discretely stabilize the scultpure.

The blackness of the charred trunks itself spoke loudly about survival in that quiet place. Particularly after the school shooting in Uvalde, which was much on our mind as we took our photos.

What was it saying?

"Spire engages in a silent 'call and response' with the other local legends visible from the site -- the Transamerica Pyramid, Sutro Tower and church spires, to name a few," the Presidio says on its site.

It is, indeed, another tower among them. But like the redwoods it emulates, it has withstood fire. Not being alive, it couldn't have withstood it very long without help, but it survives in an altered state, one foreseen by Goldsworthy himself, who saw the event as an inevitable evolution in the outdoor piece.

Returning to see Spire was nevertheless a somber experience for us.

Spire, in its burned state, puts those who do not put out the fires that inflame our politics in the same camp as arsonists. While it demonstrates to those of us who survive the violence that, despite the destruction, something beautiful still stands.

And we must take every measure to protect it.

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