Art One Oh One - Earth Art


I am in love with this series - hey, wait a minute, that's REALLY close to our guest columnist's tag line: "seriously in love with art". Didn't have a chance to go to art school? Pull up a chair for Erin of Art Social's series Art One Oh One. We've learned about Abstract ExpressionismPop Art, Minimalism and Performance Art. Today it's Earth Art.

“Isolation is the essence of Land Art.”

- Walter De Maria

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Man. Nature. It's always interesting when those two get together.

Artists have been using natural materials to create artwork since the beginning. However, in the late-1960s a group of artists emerged who worked in nature to create site-specific, often gigantic works of art.

Earth Art (also known as Land Art and Environmental Art) is artwork created in the landscape using natural materials. The works usually exist in open spaces, far away from any city, and require a pilgrimage of sorts in order to visit them.

Earth artists were concerned with the questions: is art only meant to be in a gallery, museum, or private home? Can artwork be in the land or part of the land itself? I'd say no and heck yes.

The artists who really got things going for this movement were Michael Heizer, Walter De Maria, and Robert Smithson. These artists put their mark on nature, some would argue even disrespected nature, in order to create works such as Heizer's Double Negative in Nevada, De Maria's Lightning Field in New Mexico, and Smithson's Spiral Jetty in Utah.


For Double Negative, Heizer removed 240,000 tons of earth (rhyolite and sandstone to be exact) from the landscape of the Virgin River Mesa. The excavation measures 30 feet wide, 50 feet top to bottom, and 1,500 feet long. A small canyon intersects Heizer's cut in the landscape. P.S. You may have heard of Heizer's recent gem at LACMA... yep, it's that guy.


The Lightning Field sits on a flat basin in southern New Mexico. De Maria constructed a 1 mile by 1 kilometer grid of 400 stainless steel poles. I've visited The Lightning Field and I must say it's pretty amazing. I didn't see any lightning, but it was still worth it. They drive you out to a little cabin in the middle of nowhere and leave you there for 24 hours. Okay that sounds really sketchy, but it was actually a ton of fun. The cabin is stocked with yummy food if that makes this any less creepy...


Oh Spiral Jetty, perhaps the most well-known of all the earthworks. Smithson's Spiral Jetty is made of basalt rocks and earth from the site. The artist created a coil 1,500 feet long and 15 feet wide that stretches out counter-clockwise into the water of the Great Salt Lake. Has anyone been? I'd love to see this one. Hmm should we arrange a visit?? Oh my gah, imagine how much fun we'd have! #yolo #fieldtrip... think about it.

Join me next time for a fun little discussion about Postmodernism. It's getting real, folks.

Images: Michael Heizer, Double Negative image one and  two | Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty image one and two | Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field image one and two