Check it out: a brand new Dark Roasted Blend piece I did just went up: this time about artists who work with the earth itself.
Go to a museum and look at the paintings, or the sculpture. Go to a bookstore and read the novels, or the stories, or the poems. Go to a concert and listen to the music.
Look out the window ... and see art? Some artists use oils, charcoal, watercolors, words, or notes but others use the earth itself, sometimes on a scale that, to appreciate it, means stepping far away from it: very far away.
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 is that De Maria plan for his work involves those poles interacting with one of the most beautiful signs in the desert: lightning. 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 the material it's made of 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 appearance, meaning color, but also as in appearing and disappearing: when the water rose in the lake the work it did it's already-mentioned disappearing act, only to reappear again recently.
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: Goldsworthy creates wonders with just the at hand wonder of the natural world.
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. Created, like Goldsworthy, with nature itself, one of Denevan's creations is acknowledged as the largest artwork created. Ever.
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:
Another earth artist is Michael Heizer's work-in-progress called City, in Nevada. Almost as big as it's namesake at one and a quarter miles long, Heizer's creation, however, is not steel and cement but stone and other natural materials.
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.
But if we have to talk about the earth and art, as well as art so big it can only be appreciated by being far above it, we have to travel to Peru, and back several thousand years into the past.
A favorite of ancient astronaut believers, the fact is that the Nazca lines were created by men and women who may have been working with simple tools but utilizing their very intelligent minds. Created by removing the native gravel to expose the different-colored ground under, the lines depict a wide variety of shapes and forms, some purely geometric, but others representing the animals the Nazca natives were most familiar with: spiders, fish, llamas, lizards, hummingbirds and others.
While the execution is phenomenal, a low whistle is absolutely needed when that level of skill of coupled with the size of the lines. The largest of the forms stretches almost across 900 feet across and pretty much all of them are all but invisible ... unless you happen to be high above the earth they were carved into.
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 their art is the earth itself, a celebration of the world literally all around us.