Land Art

Star Crossed

Star Crossed
In 1979, Nancy Holt was commissioned to do two works on the grounds of Miami University in Ohio, a piece called Polar Circle, and this piece called Star-Crossed. Polar Circle was destroyed not long afterwards, apparently by accident, by the University grounds crew. Star-Crossed has survived, but is in a degraded state, and is officially closed (as a sign next to the sculpture indicates). The piece is made primarily of earth, originally mounded to a height of 14 feet, covering two concrete tubes, one aligned north-south and the other east-west, held in place by a buried steel frame. Until recently, the grounds crew of the University has been attempting to maintain it as part of the landscaping of the property, and it has not been treated as an artwork with special conservatorial needs. Some years ago, due to insufficient irrigation, the grass covering died, and the soil, thus exposed to erosion, slowly slumped down the steep slopes. The sculpture was rebuilt, but with the existing clay subsoil mixed into the topsoil, making for a less resilient form. Efforts to preserve the piece are said to be moving forward, under a new director at the art museum.

Complex City

Complex City
  A remote ranch in Garden Valley, Nevada is where the artist Michael Heizer has been building his City complex since 1972. The mile and a half long artwork is now within the Basin and Range National Monument, a 704,000 acre wilderness area, established by President Obama in 2015. Eventually the sculpture will be open to the public, but for now it remains off limits, behind a locked gate, the Area 51 of Land Art.

Cadillac Ranch

Cadillac Ranch
This American landmark, composed of ten vintage Cadillacs buried nose-first in a field outside Amarillo, was originally installed in 1974. It was conceived by a group of artists and architects known as Ant Farm (Chip Ward, Hudson Marquez, and Doug Michaels), and it was funded and "seen through" by the notorios Amarillo resident Stanly Marsh III (Stanly Marsh III is responsible for a host of unusual sights around Amarillo including Floating Mesa, a giant moveable pool table, Robert Smithson's Amarillo Ramp, and a rash of over 2,000 wacky "street" signs which appeared throughout the area in the 1990s). In 1997, concerned about the aestheic impact that the encroaching suburbs of Amarillo were having on Cadillac Ranch, Mr. Marsh had the whole sculpture dug up and relocated to another portion of his property, two miles further outside of town.

Roden Crater

Roden Crater
An extinct volcano, composed of red and black cinders, on the edge of the Painted Desert, which is being turned into a monumental work of land art by the artist James Turrell. The project has been under construction for over 25 years, since Turrell's acquisition of the crater in 1977. As of 2016, six of a projected 21 viewing spaces have been completed, including the reshaping of the bowl of the crater itself. Some tunnels have been added as well, including one that is 854 feet long. Visitation will most likely be limited to a few people at a time, staying overnight at the site.

Double Negative

Double Negative
An earthwork created by the artist Michael Heizer in 1969 and 1970. The piece consists of two gouges in the edge of a mesa, in southern Nevada. The 30-foot wide, 50-foot deep cuts, made by dynamite and bulldozers, face each other from either side of a scallop on the eroded edge of the natural landform, suggesting a continuous, invisible, negative form between them. The piece, totaling almost 1,500 feet from end to end (including the space between), is now property of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Amarillo Ramp

Amarillo Ramp
An earthwork by the artist Robert Smithson, consisting of a 140-foot diameter partial circle of rock which rises out of the level ground to a height of around 15 feet. The artificial lake in which the piece once emerged is now dry, and the sculpture is slowly eroding. Smithson was killed in a plane crash while surveying the site for this work, along with a photographer and the pilot. The crash site is a few hundred yards from the Ramp. The completion of the piece was performed by his widow, Nancy Holt, Richard Serra, and others, shortly after Smithson's death in 1973. Amarillo Ramp was commissioned by Stanley Marsh, a local ranch owner and bon-vivant who also commissioned the famous Cadillac Ranch and several other sculptures on the over 200 square miles of land he owned with his wife around Amarillo.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is a reclamation land art piece, made by Judy Pinto, with landscape architect Steve Martino. It is made of stone walls, arranged in the shape of a tree, lying flat on the ground, and is designed to capture water with its branches and trunk, to foster plant life. It is located at the northeast corner of Papago Park, in Phoenix, at the intersection of Galvin Parkway and McDowell Road.  Papago Park has several other interesting things in it as well, such as the historic Hole in the Rock, Hunt’s Tomb, the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Hall of Flame Firefighting Museum, a golf course, and a fairly sizable National Guard base complete with helicopters. The park used to be called the "Papago Saguaro National Monument," but the  name was changed when the Saguaro cactuses disappeared, due mostly to imbalances in the ecology of the site (many of them were eaten by rabbits, apparently).

Carving Studio and Sculpture Center

Carving Studio and Sculpture Center
The Carving Studio and Sculpture Center in West Rutland is an active art production site, located at a large, long-shuttered Vermont Marble production plant. Most of the buildings are leased to other companies, but the Carving Studio occupies a few of the more picturesque old ones, and installs artworks amidst the ruins of the old bridge crane and in and around the outbuildings and flooded quarries that dot the area. The legacy of the marble industry in Vermont, once the largest supplier of this rock in the nation, can be seen at a number of interesting places, but none quite like this, where creative interpretations intersect the industrial artifacts.

Devil's Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant

Devil's Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant
Relying on natural decontamination processes instead of chemical agents, Viet Ngo's "Lemna System" utilizes a variety of floating plants to remove harmful phosphorus, nitrogen and algae in water before it is released into a bay of Devil's Lake. Shaped in the form of a long, windy road or a coiled serpent, this site has attracted much attention from environmentalists, artists, and the general public as a role model for the natural reclamation of water.

Wave Field

Wave Field
1995 earthwork by Maya Lin, located on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The piece forms a square of approximately 10,000 square feet, and is dedicated to the memory of Francois-Xavier Bagnoud.
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