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Grand Scale Environmental & Land Art

“QUANTUM SHOT” #671
Link – article by M. Christian and Avi Abrams

“Man’s Reaction To His Earth” – The Grandest and the Most Sublime Land Art

Go to a museum and look at the paintings, go to a concert and listen to the music… but look out the window – and see art? Often called “Earth Works”, or “Land Art” these not-too-subtle masterpieces use the landscape itself, sometimes on a scale that, to appreciate it, means stepping far away from it: very far away.


(left: land art by Andrew Rogers, via; right: Uysal Mehmet Ali in Parc de Chaudfontaine, Belgium, via)

Travel to Catron County, New Mexico, for instance and you’ll see a work that is immediately, and quite literally, striking. Created by Walter De Maria, The Lightning Field is 400 steel poles set in a grid covering one mile by one kilometer portion of desert land. The Lightning Field is impressive, a haunting visa of steel spears against the dramatic landscape of the Southwest, but what gives it that literal striking beauty – the most beautiful sight in the desert: lightning.


(images credit: John Cliett, Dia Art Foundation, via 1, 2, 3)

Given the right set of circumstances, nature itself paints itself in brilliant illuminations of forked electricity, shaped and sculpted by De Maria’s metal rods.

Not that far away, in Rozel Point, Utah, you’ll see an installation that (because of the on-again, off-again nature of its media) actually vanished for close than 30 years. Created by Robert Smithson using natural rock, Spiral Jetty is exactly that: a coiling formation of stone that, when it was first created in 1970, was harshly black but as it aged its become more and more pink and white because of the its home in the Great Salt Lake. As with The Lightning Field, Spiral Jetty works with the earth itself, not just in color only, but also in appearing and disappearing: when the water rose in the lake Spiral Jetty disappeared, only to reappear again recently:



(images credit: SpiralJetty, KAP Cris/Cris Benton, Fred Holley)

While not as large in scale as Smithson or De Maria, there’s an artist whose work has been known to bring tears to even the most jaded of eyes. Andy Goldsworthy works with nature, and nothing else, to create some truly unique, and absolutely beautiful, art.

No glue, no supports, no paint … nothing but grass, stone, ice, and the earth:




(images credit: Andy Goldsworthy, via 1, 2)

Still existing on the earth, the art of Jim Denevan, is so large, so staggering, that to appreciate them you have to step away from it all: from the ground and even, in some cases, the earth itself. (Read our previous article about his Largest Human-Made Art on Earth):

At over nine miles across, this Denevan’s creation in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, is the one for the record books … that is, until Denevan or another artist likes him, goes for something even larger. His current project is making huge circles on the frozen surface of Lake Baikal, Siberia (more info):


(images credit: Jim Denevan, via)

Another earth artist is Michael Heizer’s work-in-progress called City, in Nevada. Almost as big as its namesake at one and a quarter miles long, Heizer’s creation is not built from steel and cement, however, but from stone and other natural materials (more info).

“As long as you’re going to make a sculpture, why not make one that competes with a 747, or the Empire State Building, or the Golden Gate Bridge.” –Michael Heizer


(images credit: Michael Heizer)

James Turrell, too, uses the earth itself for his work but unlike some other environmental artists he uses not just the ground but also the sky above. His Roden Crater, which is considered on the list of immense artworks with Denevan’s creations, is an ongoing work that will, eventually, transform a natural crater in Flagstaff, Arizona, into an open air observatory where the earth will provide a naturally framed view of the sky above.


(images via Steve Shoffner, 1, 2)

Still hugry for some fascinating and unexpected land art installations? Well, Sylvian Meyer takes a forest and populates it with impossible curves and spirals (even spiders!) to convey the wonder of the environment:



(images credit: Sylvian Meyer)

Unintentional land art – irrigation patterns for Kufra growing in Sahara, Africa:


(images via 1, 2)

Not too subtle hint about pollution: the sinister “Green Cloud” Nuage Vent installation by HeHe (Helen Evans and Heiki Hansen) – winner of the 2008 Ars Electronica Golden Nica award):


(image via)

From Utterly Huge to Detailed Miniature

Mini-environments by Michael Samuels are somewhat endearing and cute, but don’t let it fool you. He lets his pet hamsters to invade the sets when he gets tired of them, generating an interesting Pet-Zilla effect (er… just kidding):



(images by Michael Samuels, via)

Jack Clifton, author of The Eye of the Artist, said, “Man’s reaction to his earth expressed by means of a medium is ART.” In the case of these wonderful artists, the ground beneath our feet and the sky above our heads becomes art, an artist’s response to his earth, a celebration of the world set all around us.

If you have a creative block and can not think of anything to enhance the landscape – how about jumping in and using yourself as part of a scenery? -


(original unknown)

And in the absence of intentional artists, the Nature itself is making art and embellishing architecture – check out these Victorian ornaments (something called a snow roller):


(image via)

CONTINUE TO “LARGEST HUMAN-MADE ART ON EARTH” ->

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