Our planet is a truly magical work of art; complex, multifaceted and textural. Perhaps this is why Andy Warhol, a name that is unlikely to be associated with this topic, once said, “Land really is the best art.” Viewed in this simplistic yet profound light, land, or Earth, serves almost as found object in the implementation of Earthworks. In other instances land becomes the canvas, or the sculptural negative space for installation, or even a foundation and medium to explore sociocultural patterns.
Lita Albuquerque has used the earth and its materials for decades to create ephemeral and spiritually infused work. Her incorporation of performance, photography and installation creates multiple dimensions and lenses to experience our world, our relationship to earth and the stars, as well as their rhythms and cycles. The images featured here of her project Stellar Axis document an artistic expedition into Antarctica, which was the first and largest ephemeral work created on the continent. The installation of ninety-nine spheres across the icy landscape mimics the pattern of the ninety-nine Antarctic stars above- visually linking Earth to the cosmos.
James Turrell has developed a far reaching continuum of work surrounding light and space, and the breadth of his work is encapsulated in what is most likely the swan song of his artistic career: The Roden Crater. This work, which has been decades in development extends for Turrell his studio work on light and space into the western landscape. The Roden Crater, a 400,000 year old, 600 foot tall extinct volcanic cylinder cone near Arizona’s painted Desert and the Grand Canyon is being slowly transformed into a breathtaking study of light and space. Turrell explains, “My work is more about your seeing than it is about my seeing, although it is a product of my seeing. I’m also interested in the sense of presence of space; that is space where you feel a presence, almost an entity — that physical feeling and power that space can give. Roden Crater has knowledge in it and it does something with that knowledge. Environmental events occur; a space lights up. Something happens in there, for a moment, or for a time. It is an eye, something that is itself perceiving. It is a piece that does not end. It is changed by the action of the sun, the moon, the cloud cover, by the day and the season that you’re there, it has visions, qualities and a universe of possibilities.” (Occluded Front, MOCA)
Matthew Moore‘s work is inspired by his experience growing up as a fourth generation farmer in Arizona. Watching the landscape change with encroaching suburban sprawl, as well as the dramatic changes in mainstream agricultural practice are common themes in Moore’s multi-disciplinary and sometimes social practice based work. Physical works of Land Art he has created include crops planted in designs that echo the layout of a suburban subdivision. The Digital Farm Collective is a project Moore is currently concentrating on that provided solar powered video cameras to farms to document the process of growing vegetation, which is then used for research and other art installations.
And it’s impossible to address Land Art and not discuss the work of Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long, two foundational artists to the practice of creating art in and with the natural environment. Goldsworthy’s land based sculptures and installations have a time based component. The fragility and constant changes and growths in our weather and landscape can be seen in his work. For example, his egg shaped granite work Strangler Cairn was constructed in such a way that the plant beneath the sculpture will eventually encase it. Long’s work is also time based, specifically inspired by his time spent within the specific location he is creating work in. This time spent reflecting and meditating within nature is transmuted into subtle and ephemeral works either on location or later within art spaces. Actual durations of time within these environmental works become subject matter that aesthetically informs the work itself.