Whitespace Top 10
Earthworks | Environmental | Land Art
This first Top 10 list highlights my favorite pieces of earthworks, environmental, and land art. For me, this type of art is transformative due to its scale and its disruption of the landscape. The pieces on my list have allowed me to feel the smallness of my humanity, which has led me to a place of introspection and self-awareness. These same pieces have allowed me to recognize the transformative power of art. Because of the focus and dedication to their craft, many of these artists have spent years, if not lifetimes, living and building their art, and these artists, these pieces, inspire me to keep discovering.
One of my all-time favorite land artists is James Turrell. I first became acquainted with Turrell’s work when my friend, Elizabeth, invited me to visit her hometown of Pittsburgh in 1999. We went to an exhibit at the Mattress Factory where I was able to encounter one of Turrell’s skyscapes in the flesh. It changed the way I saw space, light, art and the world forever. After that experience, I set a goal to see all of Turrell’s pieces, wherever it led, all over the world.
James Turrell’s work led me to discover, and seek out, other artists who traded their paint brushes for tractors in order to create art in, and within, a natural landscape that did not, and could not, confine their vision.
Here are my Top 10 favorite pieces. I encourage you to grab a pickup truck or at least a four-wheel drive and seek these out on your own. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Have fun!
1. Lightning Fields, Walter de Maria, Pie Town, NM
An immersive, massive sculpture (1 mile X 1 meter) located in the isolated, high desert of New Mexico. An experience with light that proved life-changing for me.
2. Double Negative, Michael Heizer, Clark, NV
Very difficult to find even with the best directions but “getting lost” is part of the wonder. Reductive, gouged earth that feels like a narrow street in an ancient city or that of a cathedral. Either way, I experienced a sense of awe as I tried to understand my place in the world.
3. Spiral Jetty, Robert Smithson, Great Salt Lake, UT
Walking onto/into the work is a little like walking a labyrinth or wandering along the inside of a chambered nautilus. For me, it was a contemplative, solitary experience.
4. 15 untitled works in concrete, Donald Judd, Marfa, TX
Viewing Judd’s work outside of the white cube is a little disconcerting at first, but seeing his concrete geometric forms placed on the low, grassy Texas landscape reminded me of a modern Stonehedge.
5. The Wave, Maya Lin, Mountainville, NY
These undulating, grassy mounds are so high that I actually felt like I was floating between waves in the ocean.
6. Schunnemunk Fork, Richard Serra, Mountainville, NY
I love this Richard Serra sculpture. Previously, I had only seen Serra’s free-standing work inside museums and galleries. To see these beautiful cor-ten steel pieces in the open is to witness art merging with the natural world. The steel punctures the rolling fields at Storm King to emphasize the various drop offs in the landscape. It’s very unexpected and thought provoking.
7. Storm King Wall, Andy Goldsworthy, Mountainville, NY
Years ago, on my first trip to Storm King, I saw Andy Goldsworthy’s Storm King Wall. Previously, I had only seen Goldsworthy’s work in films and books. This lovely serpentine rock wall winds itself, like a snake, through a grove of dense trees into, under and through a small pond to emerge on the other side and continue its ascent upward toward the crest of a nearby hill. For me, this is an installation that embraces nature to the fullest and cannot be transferred into a stagnant image. It must be seen in person to be appreciated.
The three sites on the Top 10 that I have not seen, but are on the list, are The Roden Crater, The City, and Sun Tunnels. The first two works have required almost a lifetime of commitment for their respective pièces de résistance. The final artwork on the list is Sun Tunnels by Nancy Holt which took Holt three years to complete. It is currently open to the public, unfortunately, Holt died shortly after this work was completed.
1. The Roden Crater, James Turrell, Northern Arizona
2. The City, Michael Heizer, Garden Valley, NV
This project began in 1972 and is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
3. Sun Tunnels, Nancy Holt, Lucin, Utah